Sharp practices being perpetrated in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector are costing the industry and the economy over $3 billion (N1.06 trillion) in losses.
Leading these sharp practices were SIM Box, Call masking and refilling menace, which have over the last 14 months pitched the regulator against the mobile network operators and clearing houses in the country.
These sharp practices not only constituted serious security threat to the country, it equally robbed government of added income in form of taxes from the country’s telecommunications sector. The industry is estimated to worth over $70 billion.
Call masking/refilling is basically when an international call is terminated in Nigeria as a local number. The perpetrators have ulterior motive of profiting from price differentials between international and local calls termination rates.
Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, who disclosed this yesterday at the 85th edition of the Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP) in Lagos, said though the commission was on top of the situation, “the menace has become a worrisome development that constitutes serious challenges not only to the telecoms industry, but also poses huge security threats to the entire country.”
Danbatta, represented by the Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, said some unscrupulous elements wanted to continue to fraudulently profit from the earlier lopsidedness in the International Termination Rate (ITR).
Also, a panellist, NCC’s Director, Legal Services, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, disclosed that the efforts of the Commission in tackling the menace yielded some positive results.
Akinloye, who said the NCC made three arrests in Lagos, two Nigerians and a foreigner, added that by August, SIM Boxing reduced by 25 per cent, while call masking fell by 40 per cent.
In the same vein, Olumayowa Oloyede, who spoke on behalf of MTN, admitted that the challenge started some two years back as a result of the changes in termination rates.
The lead discussant on the issue, Ayoola Oke, said the menace has become a huge threat to lives and property in the country. He, therefore, called on NCC to review the ITR to make it unattractive for the criminals.
Oke, who urged consumers to report the menace whenever they experience it, charged operators to install technology in their networks that can block and give true identities of those behind the crime.
Meanwhile, Danbatta said the commission was going to issue a direction to MNOs to explore every technical means not to allow their networks to be used for the menace.
Globacom representative, Ganiyu Adesanya, said the menace has become a big problem for the MNOs, as no software has been able to detect the origin of challenge.