Critics linking 5G to COVID-19 talking in ignorance –Adebayo, licensed telecoms operators’ chairman

Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, debunks allegations that 5G technology is responsible for COVID-19, popularly called coronavirus. He tells SIMON UTEBOR that those spreading the propaganda are not well informed about science

Recently, there has been so much talk about 5G technology, what is a 5G technology?

5G is the fifth generation service. We had before now first generation, second generation, third generation, and fourth generation. Now, there is fifth generation. Each of these generations is a layer on each other. So 5G is going to ride on the infrastructure of the previous generations to provide higher speed data, better Internet connection, better data experience and most importantly, to connect to the Internet of things, IoT.

These are basically the features of 5G. They will ride primarily on the same transporting infrastructure, which is on the same backbone. Only the terminal equipment will be a little bit different from what we had before. In terms of migration, there is really no significant change between the first, second, third and fourth generations – there will not be much difference in terms of physical infrastructure between the fourth and the fifth, but you would have added features, enhanced capability, higher connection speed, better Internet experience and Internet of things over the next few years.

There have been various insinuations globally that 5G technology is harmful, is it?

It is not harmful. There is no harmful radiation from any telecom appliances. All electronic appliances have some form of radiation or the other. Telecom signals are not vacated through the non-ionising waves, which are regarded as non-harmful to humans. Basically, this is the kind of radiation you will have from your domestic appliances such radio, TV set, electric cooker, microwave, electric iron, toaster and the rest of them at home. So, there is no harmful radiation from telephone and there is no such harm from any of the generations of telecom service. It’s not in the fourth generation and there will not be any in the fifth generation. We are members of the International Telecommunications Union – Nigeria is a signatory to their treaty. We are also members of the World Health Organisation and a number of other revered bodies all over the world. We are a signatory to all their treaties, therefore, there is no safety concerns about the 5G; not here in Nigeria, not anywhere in the world.

We think that what the peddlers of this propaganda are doing is to put fear in the people. The only functional infrastructure that we all have access to where we live is telecom service. Once you attack this infrastructure, you attack business and a lot of other things will be attacked. So, I think the propaganda is just an idea to create fear in people in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. However, we should be careful that our attention is not shifted from the focus – how to attack this enemy, COVID-19.

There are allegations that it is what would be used to fulfil the prediction of the coming of the Antichrist as it is found in the Book of Revelations in the Bible, that it would come with encoded vaccines for coronavirus, and this was also noted by a popular Nigerian pastor, Chris Oyakhilome. What do think about all this?

There is no scientific basis for such claims. There is no scientific evidence to support it. Telecommunication is transmitted by electromagnetic waves, coronavirus is a pandemic and it is transmitted from human to human. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to think of that. The only thing I can make out of all of these is that those people are trying to create fear in the populace. What is even disappointing is that those who are supposed to bring people messages of hope are bringing messages of fear and that is the point of worry.

Like they say, if it is about the Antichrist, it raises some questions about what they teach and what they say. So, those who are meant to bring you messages of hope are now bringing you messages of fear and it is just destabilising the minds of the people. It is so because there is a lot of anxiety in the air.

My challenge to everyone is to ask them what is the scientific basis for linking coronavirus with 5G telecom’s service. Science is based on empirical and verifiable facts. What is the basis of the fear they are creating in people? They are just talking and talking, but are not ready to support their claims with any empirical fact.

There is a claim that coronavirus originated in Wuhan because the Chinese city had started rolling out 5G, do you think that claim is tenable?

It is not a tenable argument because there are also other cities in China that have the 5G rollout and have less impact of coronavirus because they accepted it early enough and put preventive measures in place to stop the spread.

There are also many countries of the world today that do not have 5G in commercial use but with many people infected with coronavirus. There are also many parts of countries in the world that have 5G and do not have people infected with coronavirus. So, there is no feasible fact to support that claim. Again, all these are borne out of baseless information and it is just an attempt to create fear in the minds of the people.

Why do you think 5G technology is more controversial than 4G, 3G and 2G, as we didn’t have all these issues when they were being introduced? Or maybe there is more to it than meets the eye…

It is nothing other than the circumstances of this time. Because by the time the other generations were introduced, the world was not dealing with the issue of coronavirus. COVID-19 has been described as a novel virus, which means it is new.

5G phone masts were set ablaze in the United Kingdom because of the fear that it was the cause of COVID-19; would you say those who burnt the masts were ignorant?

Yes – they acted out of ignorance and fear. And again because of what the world is facing, it is a time when people are restricted to their homes – they can’t go out. A number of people are being treated for this virus, and fear is making many people to misbehave. So, anything you tell them at this time is useless. What you tell them to do is what they will do.

Those who set the 5G masts ablaze in that part of the world have acted out of total ignorance and I think the law should take its course on them. Today, telecom is the common infrastructure that supports the world; it is what we use to run economies, even while we are at home. I appeal to those saying this has to do with religion to practise what they preach. If they think it is harmful, they should first disconnect themselves from this unit; they should disconnect their entire domain from this unit. If they are preaching that telecom is harmful, they should switch off the communication link to their domain so that it will reflect the true reality of what they are preaching and putting in the minds of the people.

It is truly annoying because all the people who come to make these claims from the things we are reading on the social media, are the people that, for instance, when this technology is eventually introduced, they will be the first to buy the most expensive or best range of mobile phones. They will be the ones to buy the Internet of things and so on.

Senator Dino Melaye also posted a viral video alleging that it is the 5G that is causing the coronavirus, what do you think about his comments?

I disagree with him completely. There is no scientific evidence to support his claim. People make claims with no empirical evidence to support their claims. The President (retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari) of the country today is doing very well – our government is doing well. We have received commendation from the World Health Organisation regarding the effort of the government. This is a collective effort. As the government is trying to do what it can, we too must support the government.

There are people who are comfortable, and they do things that will stir controversy. Science is not fiction, fiction is not science. So, as long as you cannot support any claim with empirical evidence, it is not scientific. All the arguments they are bringing forth because of this cannot be proved. If they insist on sticking to their claims, they should first disconnect themselves (from Internet) as an example to the world. We need to appeal to the public: you can listen to what they are saying, but let common sense prevail.

The same senator also alleged that a powerful global force for economic interest is behind the introduction of 5G into the global market which will ultimately harm a lot of people, what do you have to say about that?

There is no basis for that allegation. If you say there is a global force, name the global force. If you say 5G is responsible for coronavirus and coronavirus is 5G, why bring in a global force? What is the economic interest to be derived from people dying?

There is a report that in Sweden, there are already thousands of people who have chips inserted in their hands to work with their phones and to help them verify transactions and so on, do you think it is good? Or does it justify the fear of some that the end times are drawing near?

I don’t have that information and therefore, I cannot have any opinion about it. It will be very difficult to make any comment about what I don’t know.

Are telecom companies in Nigeria already considering introducing 5G technology in the country?

We have done two trials and government has yet to come up with any policy on 5G deployment. No operator at this time in the country is operating 5G network.

To introduce 5G now will come with some challenges because of the various theories making the rounds, how can telecom companies introduce it with the minimum level of resistance?

I don’t think it is time to begin to debate about how the public presentation will be done and all that. Technology is technology. If we don’t embrace it here, other countries will embrace it. There is no regulation in the world that will compel you to accept technology that you don’t want; what it means is that you would be behind other countries of the world.

(PUNCH)

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