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.
Telecommunications workers threaten 3-day warning strike
The Private Telecommunications and Communications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PTECSSAN) has issued a three-day warning strike notice to Huawei Technologies Company Limited over alleged anti-labour practices.
Huawei is a global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices.
The PTECSSAN General Secretary, Okonu Abdullahi, in a letter addressed to the company, said the union has directed the withdrawal of services of its members from projects of the company effective between 12.00 a.m. May 2 and 11.59 p.m. May 4, 2023.
Abdullahi, in the letter made available to newsmen on Sunday, April 30, said the failure of the company to comply with the union’s demands after the warning strike would result in an indefinite strike.
He noted that the strike might cause telecommunications network disruptions as no worker would be available to attend to them.
The PTECSSAN official said: “We were constrained to embark on this industrial action when it became apparent to us that your company is not labour friendly and is not interested in peaceful and amicable resolutions of the concerns of our members.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we shall not be backing down on the warning strike except the following are agreed with the union.
“Immediate recognition of the fundamental right of the employees to freely associate with the union; immediate recognition of the union as negotiating body for the employees on workers welfare.
“Immediate remittance of membership dues into the union’s account as earlier provided; immediate payment of March salaries of some members of the union, among others.
“As we look forward to your company’s granting of our demands, please be assured of our union’s resolve to ensure better working conditions for her members.”
Other demands of the Telecommunications workers include the immediate regularisation of the employment of union members on the Huawei projects and the involvement of the union in the process.
Others are the immediate commencement of appropriate pensions deduction and remittance of same as required by the Pension Act.
“Immediate approval of the National Health Insurance Scheme that covers the employees, their spouses and four of their dependents.
“Immediate enrollment of Union members in the Group Life Insurance as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act 2004, Section 9(3).
“Immediate commencement of negotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (Conditions of Service) for the benefit of union members,” Abdullahi added.
Meanwhile, Huawei has yet to react to the latest development as of the time of filing this report.
Nigeria’s telephone users hit 222.6m
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has declared that the number of telephone users in Nigeria increased to 222.6 million at the end of 2022.
The 2022 figure showed an increase of 27.1 million telephone users over the 195.5 million subscribers recorded at the end of 2021.
The NBS made the disclosure via its Telecoms Data: Active Voice and Internet per State, Porting and Tariff Information report for the last quarter of 2022, released on Monday, April 24.
The NBS stated that the figure for the last quarter of 2022 represented a 13.87 per cent rise in voice subscriptions on a year-on-year basis.
On a quarter-on-quarter basis, the report showed growth stood at 4.89 per cent.
The NBS also recorded a total of 154.9 million active internet subscribers at the end of 2022 compared to 142 million recoded at the end of 2021.
“This represents a 9.07 per cent increase in active internet subscriptions year-on-year, while on a quarter-on-quarter basis, internet subscription grew by 1.35 per cent,” it stated.
On state-by-state analysis, the report showed that Lagos State had the highest number of active telephone users in 2022 at 26.5 million, followed by Ogun State with 13 million users.
Kano State came third with 12.4 million telephone users.
The report showed that Bayelsa State had the least number of telephone users at 1.6 million subscribers, followed by Ebonyi and Ekiti states with 1.9 million users and two million users, respectively.
It also showed that Lagos State had the highest number of internet users at 18.7 million subscribers, followed by Ogun State with 9.2 million subscribers and Kano State with 8.5 million subscribers.
“On the other hand, Bayelsa recorded the least number of 1.1 million internet users, followed by Ebonyi and Ekiti with 1.3 million and 1.5 million subscribers, respectively,” the NBS added.
The NBS noted that majority of telephone users in Nigeria in 2022 were MTN subscribers.
NCC, FIRS inaugurate 17-man joint committee to enhance revenues in telecoms sector
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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