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Saturday 1st April, 2023

Telecoms

Telecom Companies Will Continue To Hold Consumers In High Esteem- Olude, ATCON Scribe

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Mr Ajibola Olude, ATCON Executive Secretary

Executive Secretary of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Ajibola Olude has said that the role of telecom companies may not be appreciated without considering or evaluating the structure of the Nigeria telecommunications prior to its liberalization in 2000.

Olude was speaking during the 2nd Webinar Series on Sustainability, Business and Human Rights themed: ‘Consumer Protection Amidst the Pandemic – Business and Human Rights Implication’ organized by the International Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (IN-CSR) and the National Human Rights Commission.

Presenting a paper titled: ‘The role of telecommunications companies in protecting consumer rights,’ he said that prior to the liberalization of Nigeria’s telecom sector; the sector faced enormous challenges owing mainly to government’s sole ownership of the State telecommunication outfit, NITEL.

The result of this, according to Olude, was that telephone lines were owned by few selected influential people and companies in Nigeria; Nigerians were deprived of access to telephone services, and telecoms had little or no contribution to the country’s GDP.

Furthermore, fewer people were employed by the sector; the sector lacked professionals; poor funding of the sector in terms of infrastructure development was the bane then, and there was a large scale of corruption and embezzlement of funds meant for the development of the sector.

“Network rollout at that period also faced its own challenges including but not limited to restricted choices, poor quality of service, and poor service delivery among others,” Olude said.

Ajibola (left) Ogungboye, Teniola and Pantami at a function

While recalling that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), was established by law in November 1992 to regulate and put the telecom industry on the growth path, Olude said the Commission commenced full active operation mid-1993 with the first market liberalization and sector reform in the year 2000.

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He noted that the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) played a key role in terms of advocating for a liberalized telecom market in Nigeria that has brought about efficient and effective service delivery in the sector.

According to Olude, this liberalization has further brought about migration from government-owned and controlled telecom companies to privately-owned companies; Increase in local and international telecom financing, and High creativity and innovation are the hallmarks of private ownership of telecom companies.

It has also brought about a reduction in underserved and unserved areas, as well as higher contribution to the country’s GDP.

While acknowledging the fact that Consumers are kings, the ATCON Scribe pledged the Association’s member companies’ continued respect and service to telecom consumers.

“On effective service delivery, our members are working very hard to make sure that all telecom consumers have value for every kobo spent on telecom services.

Ajibola Olude with a guest at a telecom event

“All our members have been educating consumers on how they can use their data effectively. The more apps you have on your phone the quicker your data will be consumed.

“Protecting consumer rights and interest are the basis of telecom companies’ existence,” Olude said.

He identified some telecoms consumers’ rights protection initiatives to include per second billing regime, cancellation of airtime and data validity periods, allowing consumers to enjoy airtime and data roll-over; and mobile number portability.

Others include the NCC’s Do-Not-Disturb initiative; improved and efficient customers’ complaint platforms; as well as improved Customers’ experience.

He said that protecting the consumers’ right initiative has led to the development of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019, which stopped the unauthorized sharing of Nigerians’ data and protect Nigerians on the web.

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“I want to strongly advise telecom and ICT consumers that our members may not increase prices of their services and we shall not abuse consumer protection laws as we see them as development partners in the journey of developing Nigeria’s Digital Economy.

“In the height of COVID-19 Pandemic, the prices that our members charge remain stable and they did not take advantage of that moment rather they supported the government to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“Consumers are the lifeblood of a business so we take them with all sense of seriousness. We have not worked until consumers are satisfied,” Olude concluded.

 

 

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Telecoms

NCC Committed To Strengthening Regulation Of Telecom Sector, Says Danbatta

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L-R: Nnena Ukoha, Head, Corporate Communications, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); Reuben Muoka, Director, Public Affairs, NCC; Dr. Funmi Akinyele, Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, Food Basket Foundation International (FBFT) and Chairperson, Safeguarding Online Civic Space Group; Chidinma Okpara, Project Officer, FBFT and Nafisa Rugga, Head, Digital Media, NCC, during a courtesy visit by FBFT to the Commission in Abuja recently.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening the regulation of the country’s telecommunication sector, particularly by providing solid infrastructure and general industry regulations.

In this regard, the Commission said it would continue to consult stakeholders on issues affecting telecommunication services deployments and developments, in line with its culture of inclusiveness, collaboration, and partnership as predicated in its strategic focus.

Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission (EVC), Professor Garba Danbatta, gave the assurance while receiving a delegation of Food Basket Foundation International (FBFI), led by its Chief Executive Officer, Funmi Akinyele, during a courtesy visit to NCC Headquarters in Abuja.

While commending the Commission’s regulatory excellence, highlighting its effort in ensuring there are regulations, frameworks and guidelines to guard the telecoms sector and online civic space, Akinyele expressed concerns about the state of social media with uncontrolled content.

She said the visit to the regulator was to explore areas of collaboration in its programme to protect the digital civic space by combating misinformation and disinformation while mitigating risks to the digital civic space to ensure electoral integrity before, during and after the 2023 General Elections.

This initiative, she explained, comes under one of FBFI’s projects, dubbed ‘Safeguarding Digital Civic Space for Electoral Integrity (SDSEI).’

But Danbatta who was represented at the event by Reuben Muoka, NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, informed the team that the Commission is not responsible for the content of the social media as there are other government agencies that are responsible for that.

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However, the Commission he said, has engaged in several aspects of protection of the users of the Internet, such as initiatives towards Child Online Protection (COP), deployment of the Computer Security Incident Response Team (NCC-CSIRT), set up to monitor cyber-attacks in the Nigerian cyberspace, in addition to the activities of the Commission’s department of New Media and Information Security set up to address issues of cybersecurity.

“We have tried not to be a closed organisation. We give lots of premiums to consultations and collaborations, especially in the areas that will ensure that the consumers and stakeholders understand what is going on and make input that enriches the quality of regulations, as well as being able to access the information they may require to safeguard themselves and the society,” he noted.

Muoka also invited the group to join the NCC in carrying out enlightenment campaigns to educate telecom consumers on their roles and responsibilities in order to use the Internet and telecommunication platform safely to counter misuse and abuse.

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Telecoms

Beware Of Pirated YouTube Software-Related Malware- NCC-CSIRT Warns

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The Nigerian Communications Commission’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (NCC-CSIRT) has warned that those looking to acquire pirated software and resources risk becoming victims of cybercriminal gangs that are using AI-generated YouTube videos to distribute malware.

The NCC-CSIRT further warned in its advisory that falling victim could be significant for individuals and organizations, resulting in critical damage like data theft, financial loss, identity theft, system damage, and reputation damage.

The advisory additionally warned that unsuspecting victims who watch these AI-generated tutorial videos will be duped into clicking on one of the links in the video description, which usually results in the download of data-stealing malware, noting that the number of YouTube videos containing such links has increased by 200-300% months on month since November 2022.

“To stimulate the interest of potential victims, video tutorials on how to pirate sought-after software such as AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, and other similar paid-for software are created. These videos are created with AI and feature humans with facial features that research has shown other humans find trustworthy.

“The tutorials in these videos are frequently bogus and steer viewers to links in the description that led to information-stealing malware like Raccoon, Vidar, and RedLine,” the advisory revealed.

The advisory disclosed that malicious actors can create AI-generated videos that include hidden or disguised malware, noting that these videos may appear to be harmless or even entertaining, but they can contain malicious code that can infect a viewer’s device when the video is downloaded or played.

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“Cybercriminal actors can also use AI-generated videos to trick viewers into downloading malware. For example, they can create a video that appears to be a legitimate software update or security patch, but it contains malware that infects the viewer’s device.

“They equally use AI-generated videos to distribute phishing scams. They can create a video that appears to be from a legitimate company or organization and prompts viewers to click on a link to enter their login credentials or personal information. Once the viewer clicks on the link, they are directed to a fake website that steals their information.

“Additionally, malicious actors can use AI-generated videos to distribute ransomware. They can create a video that appears to be harmless, but when the viewer clicks on a link or downloads a file associated with the video, their device becomes infected with ransomware that locks them out of their files and demands payment to regain access,” the advisory further revealed.

NCC-CSIRT said that to avoid becoming a victim, telecom consumers should avoid downloading pirated software because they are generally harmful and illegal.

Furthermore, the advisory recommends the installation of antivirus software with internet security and keeping it up to date, installing an endpoint detection and response (EDR) solution that is comprehensive, and thinking before clicking any link.

 

 

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Telecoms

7 Months After Ministerial Objection, FG Removes 5% Excise Duty For Telecoms Sector

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L-R: Jacqueline Olowolayemo, Senior Administrative Manager, Mafab Communications Ltd.; Prof Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy; Dr. Vincent Olatunji, National Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Data Protection Bureau and Anas Galadima, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, MTN Nigeria, during a press briefing by the Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector in Abuja on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

Seven months after the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami led objections to the proposed application of 5 per cent excise duty on Nigeria’s telecom sector, the Federal Government Tuesday officially announced the removal of excise duty for the telecom sub-sector of Nigeria’s Digital Economy Industry.

The removal of excise duty in the sub-sector, Digital TimesNG learnt, is in line with the recommendations of the Committee the Federal Government constituted to review the applicability of the Duty to the telecom sector which is considered already overburdened with taxation and sundry levies.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, disclosed this good news on Tuesday at a press briefing organised to provide updates on the status of the 5 per cent excise duty, whose applicability to the telecom sector was objected to by the Minister in August 2022.

Recall that in response to this objection, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the application of excise duty to the telecom sector and set up a Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector.

Pantami, who is the Chairman of the Committee, specifically set up for the purpose of reviewing the proposed excise duty in the telecom sector, said the Committee had carried out its national assignment and accordingly submitted its report to the President, justifying why the sector should be exempted.

The Minister said the Committee’s submissions can be summed up in three arguments put forward to justify why additional burden in form of taxes or any level should not be imposed on the telecom sector to prevent a reversal of the important contribution the sector is making to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

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“Our justifications are based on three premises: First, is the fact that operators in the telecoms sub-sector of the digital economy industry currently pay no fewer than 41 different categories of taxes, levies and charges; secondly, that telecoms have continued to be a major contributor to the Nigerian economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product Contribution (GDP).

“The third ground for contesting the Excise Duty in the telecom sector is the fact that, despite the increase in the cost of all factors of production across the sector, and naturally leading to increase in costs of products and services, telecom sector is the only sector where the cost of service has been stable and in many cases continued to go down over the past years and therefore, adding more burden will destroy the sector,” the Minister said.

Pantami also informed the gathering that the President, having looked into the arguments put forward by the Committee and relying on the provision of Section 5 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, has therefore, exempted the telecom sector from the list of sectors to pay the excise duty as stated in Finance Act of 2021 and other subsidiary legislations, all of which are not as superior as the Constitution which permits the President to grant such waiver.

“I am happy to report to you that President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the exemption of the digital economy sector from the five per cent excise duty to be paid and this is because of the strength of the argument presented to him by the Committee that additional burden on telecom sector will increase the sufferings of Nigerians and that other sectors that are not making as much contribution to the economy should be challenged to do more and pay the 5 per cent excise duty.”

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The Minister assured Nigerians, who are telecom consumers, that the presidential exemption given to the telecom sector shall be sustained by the incoming administration as “the decision by the President is not about any political party or any administration but about Nigeria and welfare of Nigerian citizens.”

The Minister further noted that the Digital Economy Sector has continued to contribute significantly to the growth of the Nigerian economy, having contributed 14.07 per cent to the GDP in the first quarter of 2020; 17.79 per cent in the second quarter of 2021; and 18.44 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

He said the sector has also increased its quarterly revenue generation for the government from N51 billion to over N480 billion, representing a growth of 594 per cent; while the cost of buying data has also reduced from N1,200 in 2019 to N350 presently, despite the increase in the cost of operations, including the energy challenge that has caused mobile network operators to power base stations with over 32,000 power generating to provide seamless services to their teeming consumers.

 

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