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NCC overhauls regulatory instruments, management tools for operational efficiency

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it is adjusting regulatory instruments and management tools to ensure regulations are fit for future imperatives of a robust telecoms sector.

The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management (ECSM), NCC, Adeleke Adewolu, stated this when he spoke at a panel session at the 2021 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association held in Port Harcourt. The general theme of the Conference is, ‘Taking the Lead’.

Adewolu, who made the declaration in a panel discussion focused on Government Regulation of Innovation and Technology, said, “In specific terms, we are taking action in the following areas: We are adjusting regulatory instruments and management tools to ensure regulations are fit for the future. An example is our ongoing review of the Telephone Subscriber Registration Regulations to strengthen the framework for digital identity; and the review of the Spectrum Trading Guidelines to ensure more efficient use of spectrum.”

Also, the ECSM said NCC is laying institutional foundations to enable co-operation with other regulatory institutions and international organisations such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The Commission, according to Adewolu, is also developing and adapting governance frameworks to enable the development of agile and future-proof regulation; and equally adapting regulatory enforcement activities to the “new normal”.

He said this is to ensure alignment with the rapid technological changes and innovations that are emerging at a high speed and with sophistication.

On censorship, particularly tackling illegal and harmful content on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, Adeleke said NCC had to opt for “a middle ground that promotes safe use of digital service platforms without necessarily stifling the exercise of the citizen’s right to free expression as guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution.”

He explained that on technology platforms, censorship manifests in three scenarios, namely, restriction of person-to-person communications; restriction of Internet access generally; or restriction of access to specific content, which governments find objectionable.

This, he said, was pursuant to constitutional provisions such as those in Section 39(3) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, which approves “any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society to prevent the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films.”

In particular, Adewolu declared that the third scenario is globally recognised as the ideal situation because one of the core responsibilities of government (as enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution) is to safeguard the lives and property of citizens.

Explicating further, Adewolu said that social media platforms allow instant communications without regard for impact or consequences.

He insisted that self-regulation is possible, but “as we have experienced over and over again, an ill-considered post on social media can easily incite unrest and crises.”

He bemoaned the fact that leading social media platforms have demonstrated a rather unfortunate reluctance to moderate the use of their platforms for subversion and harm. “So, we cannot trust them to self-regulate,” he emphasised.

According to him, self-regulation has not been very effective, and interestingly, “the largest platforms are global platforms and many of them are protected by their home governments.”

For instance, “Sc.230 of US Communications Act provides immunity to firms like Facebook and Google from responsibility for content disseminated on their media, although they still apply fair usage and community rules which enables them to self-regulate. However, as we saw with the case of the former US President Donald Trump – people are often able to disseminate negative content for a while before they are cut off. Mr Trump had over 87 million followers he engaged directly with,” the ECSM stated.

Another example he cited happened just few days ago when CNN reported that Facebook deliberately failed to curb posts inciting violence in Ethiopia despite the fact that its own staff flagged such posts, and that Ethiopia is listed as a high-priority zone, which has been fighting a civil war for the past one year. As Adewolu recalled, the UN Secretary General recently called for the regulation of social media platforms, and even the CEO of Facebook has made similar calls in the past.

“So, we cannot wholly depend on self-regulation. And whilst we cannot prevent citizens from freely expressing themselves on these platforms, it would be irresponsible for any government to allow unbridled use of these mediated communication to cause chaos and imperil lives and property. Government must act to protect social cohesion and national security,” he counselled.

 

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Business & Economy

NCC, FIRS inaugurate 17-man joint committee to enhance revenues in telecoms sector

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) have taken their collaboration a bit further by setting up a Joint Committee of senior and management staff of the two agencies towards the implementation of inter-agency strategies for enhancing national revenues in the telecommunications sector.

The collaboration birthed the inauguration of 17-member committee by the NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Adeleke Adewolu, on behalf of the Commission’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, and the Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, at the NCC’s headquarters in Abuja.

The inauguration of the committee, comprising six officials of NCC and eleven officials of FIRS, was carried out with senior officials of NCC and those of the tax agency led by its Coordinating Director for Compliance Support Group, Dr. Dick Irri, who represented the FIRS’ Executive Chairman, Muhammad Nami at the event.

While inaugurating the Committee on behalf of the heads of the two agencies, Adewolu said the terms of reference of the Committee include: review the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the NCC and the FIRS on June 9, 2020; and carry out inter-agency interaction on the implementation of the NCC’s Revenue Assurance System (RAS), to ensure that it incorporates the needs of FIRS to the extent that RAS can remain the sole interface with telecom service providers’ networks vis-à-vis the Tax Authority’s information needs from the telecoms sector.

On his part, Dr. Dick Irri, who led the FIRS delegation, advised the Committee to take the assignments very seriously.
Irri said: “I would like to task you to take this assignment as a national matter as we expect the two agencies to work in harmony, collaborate effectively and have a warm handshake that will make this synergy between the two agencies a great example of collaboration between Federal Government agencies towards enhancing fiscal governance in Nigeria”.

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Communication

NIN: Government Orders Telcos To Bar Outgoing Calls On Unlinked SIMs

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The Nigerian Government has directed telecommunication companie in the country to bar all outgoing calls on unlinked lines from Monday, April 4, 2022.

Unlinked lines are Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMS) not yet registered and linked with the National Identification Number (NIN) by users.

The government’s directive was announced in a statement jointly signed on Monday by the Director of Public Affairs at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ikechukwu Adinde, and the Head of Corporate Communications at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Mr Kayode Adegoke.

Over 125 million SIMs, according to the statement, have had their NINs submitted for linkage, verification, and authentication and NIMC has issued over 78 million unique NINs to date.

The government explained that NIN-SIM linkage had been extended on multiple occasions to allow Nigerians to freely comply with the policy.

It added that the enrolment for NIN was a continuous exercise as it was a precondition for service in telecommunication companies, banks, Nigerian Immigration Service, and several other government agencies.

According to the NCC, at least 72.8 million subscribers risk being disconnected from telecommunication services following the latest directive.

Data from the commission indicates that there are 197.8 million active telecom subscribers in Nigeria as of February 2022.

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Communication

NCC Sets the Pace in FG’s Indigenous Tech Development Policy

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…Showcases sponsored prototypes

By Ossom Raphael

TheNigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has given concrete expression to the Federal Government’s drive to promote indigenous innovative technologies in Nigeria’s telecommunication sector.

The Commission demonstrated this when it organised the maiden prototype and research exposition aimed at showcasing no fewer than 10 prototypes, arising from its sponsored Telecommunications-Based Research Innovation Projects in the Nigerian universities.

The Commission selected 10 prototypes for exhibition as outputs of its telecom research project during the two-day event that took place at the NCC’s Communications and Digital Economy Complex in Abuja.

A statement by Ikechukwu Adinde, Director, Public Affairs of the NCC, listed the top 10 prototypes to include: Multiple operators’ enabled SIM, GSM communication-based walking cane robot, Powerline communications module, Home-grown electrical power charger, Low-cost GSM telephone system, Wireless power transfer device, Vital sign monitor, Plastic optical fibre cable, Wearable E-band tracker, and a Software-based nomadic base station.

The Commission is implementing the research and prototype exposition as a way of encouraging the commercializing of the prototypes, as an influential platform for universities, professionals and industry experts to come together, share information and build long-lasting business relationships.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, said through the NCC’s telecoms-based research and prototype exposition, “the indigenous technological capabilities of Nigerians will be fully appreciated, harnessed, and utilised towards stimulating the overall productivity and sustainability of the telecommunications industry.”

Pantami emphasised that research is considered a necessary condition for the technological development of any nation and also regarded as the backbone of the communications industry, because it is the building block for the future development of advanced telecommunications products and services. He tasked the mobile network operators (MNOs) to work with NCC to support indigenous technology development to solve national challenges in future.

The Minister commended the Commission’s Board and Management for facilitating the delivery of the lofty policy targets contained in the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content (NPPIC) 2021. He also thanked the recipients of the Commission’s grants for the display of already developed prototypes for the knowledge of the industry stakeholders.

Speaking earlier, Chairman, NCC, Board of Commissioners, Prof. Adeolu Akande, declared that the Commission will continue to provide the enabling environment to bridge the gap in the significant tripartite relationship among the academia, industry, and the government. He encouraged participants to support NCC’s initiative to succeed, as businesses will emerge, and sustainable jobs will be available for our young graduates on account of this new developments.

On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive of NCC, Prof .Umar Garba Danbatta, reinforced the Commission’s commitment to discharging its role as an active regulator to drive the indigenous content development component of the nation’s telecoms sector. The EVC reiterated the significance of building the indigenous technological capacities of Nigerians through partnerships with relevant stakeholders.

He said: “The Commission has awarded grants to successful academic institutions to develop Working Prototype and Telecommunications-led Products capable of addressing industry needs and providing overall sustainability, fully-developed and ready-for-the-first phase of market entry”, Danbatta stated.

“It is important to have a commercialisation strategy to transit from rudimentary research into the market to address the local challenges and reduce the over-dependence on imported innovations and technologies with the attendant drain on the nations scarce foreign exchange.. This is what this programme hopes to achieve to maximize the full potential of academia in contributing to the steady growth of the telecoms industry in Nigeria”.

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