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NCC delaying decisions on call-maskers to avoid hasty conclusions

More than one week after the submission of responses by six interconnect clearing houses accused of masking international telephone calls by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), indications have emerged showing that the Commission is yet to come up with its verdict.

Addressing the media in Lagos last week, the NCC’s Commissioner for Stakeholders Affairs, Mr. Sunday Dare revealed that after presenting the exhibits of the infractions before the affected companies, they were allowed to go and prepare their defences on why they should not be sanctioned within days.

Dare averred that “The Commission is reviewing the responses of the Interconnect Clearinghouses on the allegations of call masking. Based on their responses, the Commission will determine, which of the licenses would either be suspended or sanctioned,” he said.

“For us, revocation would be the last resort because we want to ensure that the telecom industry remains healthy. The Interconnect Clearinghouses are presently cooperating with us. We might see some suspensions and sanctions in the next one week, but I don’t see revocation happening because we want to work with them, we don’t want to see any stress in the telecom industry.”

Today, Friday, February, 16, 2018 makes it more than one week and nothing has happened, an indication that NCC is really taking its time, contrary to earlier body language of the Commission on the matter.

NCC had earlier in January, issued a statement saying “In accordance with the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act and its subsidiary regulations, the implicated licensees have been given till the 31st of January to show cause why the Commission should not either revoke or suspend their operating licenses in view of evidence of their involvement at the disposal of the Commission and the security agencies.

“Because of the critical impacts of this nefarious practice on national security and consumer experience, the Commission is determined to decisively deal with any of its licensees implicated in the scam. We do not want to expose the country to any further embarrassment. At the very least, serious sanctions would be imposed on them if it is found that their involvement does not justify suspension or revocation of their licenses.”

Though a credible source at the Commission confirmed that all of them had submitted their defences for long in an interview on Thursday, the official said “NCC is taking its time in deciding the next line of action to avoid shocks in the industry”.

“All of them may not get a flat rate penalty as their levels of involvements in the digital crime are not the same in the first place”.

“I would not know when the final decision on the companies will be made, but what I know is that there must be sanctions that will serve as a deterrent to limit chances of further occurrences,” the source concluded.

The licensees involved include Medallion Communications Limited, Interconnect Cleaning House Nigeria Limited, Niconnx Communication Limited, Breeze Micro Limited, Solid Interconnectivity and Exchange Telecommunications Limited.

Call masking is when a telephone number making a call is disguised or displayed as a different number. It is typically the case with companies that use what is known as non-geographical numbers.

The Commission had over the years warned that the practice is illegal and that telecom companies indulging in the practice would be punished as it limits competition and also portends dire security implications for the country.

Besides, at the heat of the allegation and counter allegations, an official of one of the affected clearing house argued that “It may interest you to know that we have no power to tamper with MNO traffic that passes through our system. It is actually the MNOs that profit a lot from call masking and refilling, if there is one in the sector now”.

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