BY OLABISI OLALEYE
President of the Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, has tasked the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to look at other constructive ways of correcting erring operators rather than slamming cash penalties on them.
In a chat with Daily Sun shortly after the association’s “First Extraordinary Annual General Meeting (AGM)” in Lagos, Adebayo, who is also the Group Chairman of Communications Network Support Systems (CNSS), appealed that NCC should review this method. He also appealed that bills pending at the National Assembly, including the Critical Infrastructure Bill, should be looked at and not allowed to rot away in the assembly’s cabinet.
The ALTON President also broached the issue of xenophobia, tariff reduction, undue delay in 2.6Ghz and other subjects affecting the industry.
Sanction is not the best option to correct operators. I think more than the issue of sanction, pair review mechanism would help. We need to see where we are. It cannot be the case of a headmaster against the pupils, teachers against the students. We as an industry and regulator must review the status and state of affairs of the industry from time to time, so that we can jointly identify what the challenges are. If the regulator rules by sanction and wields the big stick, it has not taken the problem away. But instead of sanction, if repair review mechanism is applied, people will know what they have done. In most cases, when these operators are sanctioned, they always complain that they do not know what they have done wrong. And as such, they see no reason to be sanctioned. It is simply because there is no transparency between the board of regulators and the measurement guiding the operators. I would say that pair review mechanism will improve quality of service than sanction.
At the time of sanction, there is no correlation between the report, the regulator and operator and that is why there is always a protest when those sanctions are pronounced.
Quality of service
Again, there is this perception that telephone has the first impact on individuals. You pick up a mobile and you cannot make connections, you will definitely feel it at that point in time because it is proprietary to you. Now, it is relative because it also depends on where you are or where your caller is. I do know as an industry that the kind of head room we have on the various networks is enough to continue to guarantee good quality of service. Again, I do not say there won’t be a few hiccups here and there. They are not enough to be worried about or to determine the overall quality of service of the industry. What is most important is that there is a lot of work in progress. The operators are not sleeping.
Well, I can’t really say whether there is right or wrong value placed on the sale of NITEL. We support the privatisation of NITEL and we will do everything within our reach to keep supporting it. Everything depends on the owners and what they intend to do.
There is need for us to classify telecoms as critical national infrastructure because today, the role played by telecoms is not merely making phone calls. There are infrastructure that are the pillars behind telecommunications and as such there is need for joint stakeholders’ protection of these infrastructure.
Hopefully, we expect things to get better. Certainly, we are expecting better policy and regulatory environment in the incoming regime because investment thrives only where it is welcomed. We will continue to invest and investors will continue to be interested in the development of telecoms in Nigeria. Where there are clear regulations and predictive policies, we should and hope to attract more investors to the various networks and things will get better but not just in terms of Quality of Service (QoS), but in terms of service offering on the entire network.
Smart City initiative
Yes, we see a continuity in the Smart City initiative because it is the only area to go. In the areas where we have this initiative, things are working quite well and we believe that for us to have unhindered services, the Smart City initiative is just the way to go.
Impact of telecoms
That is why, as an industry, we are telling our story. We are telling the story of the social economic impact of telecommunications on the development of the country. That is why we have embarked on that extensive study to actually show by way of number the kind of impact telecoms has had not just on our socio-economic life but also on our foreign direct investment, and also on our national GDP. So, ALTON is telling a story of good, a story of what we have done, of what impact telecoms is having on the economy and we will continue to tell the story and our various stakeholders engagement.
What we have done in the last four years is right. The current Minister of Communications Technology has done extremely well and there is need for continuity of the work she has done. There is a need for whoever is coming to continue with the policies and initiatives she has put in place, because those things have worked and have seen to the stability of the growth of the industry. I do not think that much that will be done is new. Any changes in our policies at this point will not help the development of the industry. We must ensure continuity in the policy framework laid down by the outgoing administration.
I do not expect any reduction in cost of services because cost of business continues to go up and the challenges we face as an industry by way of interference and the problem of those people who are supposed to protect us in the industry are still there. These are strong elements that lead to increase in price. I would think that rather than expecting reduction in the cost of service provision, we will have to make extra efforts to retain the current price level. We all know what has happened to the value of the naira and our local problems are still there. Energy crisis is still there, cost of energy is still high, issues of security of infrastructure are still there, so I do not see any immediate reduction in price of telecommunications services in the nearest future. We have some relief by way of additional incentives.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) describes Lawful Interception (LI) as the lawfully authorised interception and monitoring of telecommunications (voice and data communications) to obtain the forensics necessary for pursuing wrongdoers pursuant to an order of a government body. Interception may take any of several forms, such as live interception of communications (listening in to actual conversations real time), access to audio recordings of previous conversations, access to communications records (CDRs) and access to location information (pinpointing presence of the subject).
For interception to be lawful, it must be conducted in accordance with national law, following due process after receiving proper authorisation from competent authorities.
Nigerian telecoms industry’s involvement in lawful interception
The interception of communications evidences the critical role of the telecommunication industry as a key player/enabler of LI due to its ownership of the telecommunication infrastructure and platform required to effect interceptions.
By virtue of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, telecommunications providers are under obligation to implement technical capabilities for LI – to enable national security and law enforcement agencies to exercise their authority to intercept communications.
Permit me to place on record, that the right to privacy of communications is a fundamental human right, which cannot be abridged without lawful justification.
Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution therefore provides for the protection of the privacy of all Nigerian citizens and their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.
Other than this general provision, the Constitution makes no provision for the manner in which citizens’ privacy is to be protected or guaranteed.
However, the protection and guarantee afforded by Section 37 are not absolute, and Section 45(1) is subject to any law enacted by the National Assembly in respect of national security, defence, public safety or public order.
Other laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, prohibits the disclosure of certain information, including personal information of citizens (i.e., any official information held about any person), except in the circumstances specified under the Act.
“Information” for this purpose includes any records, documents and information stored in any form, including written, electronic, visual images, sound and audio recordings.
Currently, Nigeria has no specific law governing the interception of communications.
Two draft Bills are pending before the National Assembly and they are: Interception and Monitoring Bill 2009 (Senate Bill), and telecommunications facilities (Lawful Interception of Information) Bill 2010 (House of Reps).
The Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) mandates all telecoms operators to make their systems interceptable. The NCA also authorises NCC to prescribe technical specifications for implementation (see Sections 146, 147 and 148 of the NCA).
Based on these provisions, NCC has commenced efforts leading to the enactment of a Lawful Interception Regulations.
Assessment of mobile money operations
So far, so good. We have provided the right platform and we have given the right transport access to the operators to work. And I think the impact they have been able to make so far, is a back product from the supports they have been able to receive from the operators.
Source : SunOnline