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The Nigerian Communications Commission has expressed its commitment to protecting the rights of telecoms consumers and ensuring that operations are regulated in compliance with global environmental target.

Addressing the theme for World Consumer Rights Day for 2021, “Tackling Plastic Pollution” during a press conference, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta on Monday explained that the commission is committed to supporting global drive for environmental sustainability through proper management of waste.  

On NCC and the Global Vision of a Satisfied Consumer, he commended the idea behind the theme for this year’s consumer right day, with activities and actions set out to raise awareness and engage state and non-state actors on the global plastic pollution crisis.

He noted the focus of this year’s theme is in line with the vision of the commission, which is coming three years after the NCC drafted the Nigerian Communications Industry E-Waste Regulations In 2018.

According to him, “The objective of the Regulation is to manage E-Waste; promote reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery; improve environmental management system of operators in the telecom industry; and reduce greenhouse emissions as well as enhance sustainable development efforts.”

He added that the Commission, worried by recurrent cycle of fraudulent deployment of fake and substandard mobile devices – usually made of iron and plastic components, collaborated with the Office of the National Security Adviser and other relevant government agencies to inaugurate a committee to implement Mobile Devices Management Systems (DMS).

The EVC said that the NCC is aligning with the philosophy of World Consumer Rights Day to reiterate its commitment towards providing accurate, adequate and timely information and education that enables the consumer to take informed decisions and feel protected.

“In keeping with global best practice of digital public communication for information and complaints management, the Commission continued to leverage social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, to inform and educate consumers and to use them as complaints channels for the Commission. In addition, the NCC Consumer Web Portal serves as an alternative online channel for lodging complaints and making enquiries.”

“The specially created toll free number 622 and DND short code 2442, are as active as ever. They are emplaced respectively to enable consumers to escalate unresolved complaints earlier reported to service providers, and to manage unsolicited messages. Just last month, we provided evidence that “NCC’s DND crashes unsolicited SMS by 96.6% in three years”.

He stressed the success achieved with the NCC Toll-free Number “The results we are getting through the NCC Toll-free Number 622 has been phenomenal. Thousands of complaints have been received from consumers and escalated by the Commission to service providers for quick resolution to the satisfaction of affected consumers. In our latest report, of the 11,327 genuine consumer complaints received through the 622 between 2019 and 2020, 11,288 which translate to 99.1%, have been successfully resolved.”

“Furthermore, the Commission has reviewed the Consumer Complaint categories and Service Level Agreement (CC/SLA). The CC/SLA provides complaints categories, the timelines for resolving complaints and prescribes penalties for defaulting operators. This has ensured quantifiable improvements in consumer compliant management process by the operators.”

He added that additionally, “in view of the challenges of security in the country, the Commission has completed and launched Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) in 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The process for the completion of the centers in the remaining states of the federation is ongoing.”

He noted that all activities of the Commission are designed to give assurance to the consumers that their interests are of paramount importance to the Commission. According to him, “This is because without the telecom consumers, there will be no telecom operators and there would be no regulator.”

 “This conference is conceived to highlight NCC’s commitment to protecting the telecom consumers and to highlight the regulatory role of NCC with respect to protecting the Rights of the Telecom Consumers and to connect it with the global significance of today’s celebration.”

“The Commission has ensured full compliance with Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards registration guidelines by the service providers and telecom consumers. This is to ensure proper registration to stop the use of improperly-registered SIMs, which usage is difficult to track. Having a credible subscriber database helps in tracing a SIM card to the real owner in case of any criminal investigation.  This will help in curbing the painful rise in tempo of kidnapping, robberies, banditry and similar crimes committed with the aid of the use of SIM cards.”

“We have made arrests and prosecutions in the past in this regard and through this effort, we have been able to sanitize the telecoms ecosystem of improperly-registered SIM cards that pose threat to national security. It is therefore pertinent to say that the linking of SIM and National Identity Number (NIN) database will further help us in this direction toward protecting the consumers and all citizens at large. In this regard, the Commission wishes to echo the voice of Mr. President by thanking all telecom subscribers for their understanding and co-operation in the ongoing SIM-NIN harmonization exercise.”

“The Commission has issued a number of Directions to service providers in order to ensure consumers are not shortchanged by telecom service providers. Some of the directions include: Direction on Do-Not-Disturb, Direction on Data Roll-Over, Direction on Automatic Renewal of Data Services, and Direction on Forceful Subscription to Data Services and Value-Added Services.”

“The Management of the Commission also takes consumer information and education very seriously. Just recently, it approved the re-structuring of our legacy consumer outreach and engagement programmes. These modifications were made to increase our reach to telecom consumers wherever they are while also observing COVID-19 protocols. “

Some of the new information and education programmes include:

Telecom Town Halls on Radio, a phone-in dialogic programme to be hosted via radio stations across the country where consumers at the grassroots level will be engaged in their own local language;

Telecom and The Citizen – a biweekly Twitter Live Chat targeting social media users;

Telecom TV Dialogue – a monthly television-based discourse on topical telecom issues; and

Telecom Consumer Conversations – which is segmented and targeted at different consumer groups including: The Village Square Dialogue, The Telecom Public Sphere, The Professionals’ Dialogue, Campus Conversation, Market Conversation and the NYSC Conversation.

The flagship outreach programme, Telecom Consumer Parliament, is still up and running. Similarly, other Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials like digital banners and factsheets in bookmarks format, have been remodeled in a way that deliver lasting value to the consumers. 

 

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ICT

The Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, is optimistic for an amicable resolution between mobile network operators and financial institutions in the country, to avoid suspension of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). He noted that the action if carried out will derail the digital financial service strategy of the federal government. 

Nigeria mobile network operators (MNOs) had threatened that it will from March 15th, 2021, withdraw USSD services it offers to banks due to banks indebtedness to the tune of N42 billion. Given the consequence of the USSD services withdrawal by the MNOs to the economy, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami has directed that the suspension be put on hold. 

The minister further summoned for a meeting on Monday, with Stakeholders, Central Bank Governor, the Banks Representative, NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Executive Commissioner Stakeholders Management and Representative of MNOs.

Prof Danbatta, speaking at the Commemoration of the World Consumer Right Day, said one of the important objectives of the USSD, is driving the digital financial inclusion strategy of the federal government which targets 80% financial inclusion meaning only 20% exclusion to financial services in the country.  

“This service will equally promote money mobile subs penetration which is very low. These are the two important objectives behind the idea of the USSD, and if it is to serve, obviously it is going to attract some charges, no charges are free.”

“The banks are the major beneficiaries of this, we were hoping when it was introduced that some kind of agreement could be reached on a sharing formula, how much should the bank take after charging their customers for this service and how much they are going to give Mobile network operators whose infrastructures are being leveraged upon. 

He explained that despite the fact that MNOs provide USSD service, without infrastructure there will be no services, adding that it takes huge investment by the MNOs to put the infrastructures in place, and it takes another huge investment to expand the infrastructure in order to provide service.

“Our hope is finally, an amicable resolution will be found without the telcos having to suspending the service,   with the attended consequence of derailing digital financial service strategy of the federal government,” said Danbatta, 

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