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ALTON smokes out regulatory confusion in latest NITDA’s policy position

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…Wants NCC to right the wrongs, rescue industry

Leading stakeholders’ body for operators in the nation’s telecoms sector, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has identified what it referred to as regulatory irregularities coming from the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for the industry.

The group in a statement signed by its chairman, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, said it has written to the core telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), pointing out areas that NITDA may have crossed its regulatory borders.

In the letter made available to Business Hilights in Lagos, ALTON said “We bring to the attention of the Commission recent enactment of regulations, frameworks and guidelines by the NITDA which border somewhat on communications matters within the regulatory purview of the NCC.”

The letter officially addressed to Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, Director, Legal and Regulatory Affairs and Mr. Efosa Idehen, Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement at NCC, said “Specifically, we draw the Commission’s attention to the following subsidiary legislation(s) and framework(s) issued by NITDA and concerns thereto:

  1. Framework and Guidelines for Public Internet Access (PIA) 2019:

The said Framework sets out rules for the provision of Public Internet Access without regard to the powers of the Commission and extant competition considerations. We note the Framework empowers NITDA to license a Public Internet Access Provider (PIAP) which technically is a provider of data services and prescribes minimum quality of service for such providers. The key concern is that NITDA appears to be assuming the role of a parallel regulator for data services.

  1. Framework for Data Centre Facilities:

NITDA wrote to some of our members in July 2019 stating it has commenced registration of Data Centre facilities in Nigeria and requested that they initiate the registration of their Data Centre facilities with NITDA. According to NITDA, the registration is in furtherance of continuing, ALTON leadership averred that on the prevailing Presidential Executive Orders 003 and 005 on local content development, “A careful review of the Orders does not reveal anything specific to the operation of data centres. Additionally, the promotion of local content in the industry which is the bedrock of NITDA’s position is not the Agency’s exclusive preserve, as the Commission is also well positioned to address same for the communications industry.”

Also on Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019, ALTON argued that “The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019 defines the rules governing the processing of data. It contains far-reaching provisions on personal data which includes communications identifiers such as IP address, IMEI number, IMSI number, SIM and Personal Identifiable Information, etc., as well as the procedure for procuring consent from customers and the transfer of data outside of Nigeria. “By implication, it will appear that NITDA has assumed the role of a Data Protection Agency in Nigeria and its Regulation overrides the Commission’s existing provision on data processing in the industry. In this regard, we note NITDA recently announced in the print media that it has commenced investigation of alleged breach of data security of customers by telecommunications companies and Banks.

“The foregoing developments bring to light the dreaded multiple regulation which has been a reoccurring challenge for the industry. We recall with delight that the Commission successfully tackled the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) in the past, when the Agency attempted to regulate the infrastructure deployment in the industry without recourse to the Commission.

“It is our view that the current issue with NITDA requires urgent intervention by the Commission to safeguard the interest of market players and preserve the powers of the Commission.

“Accordingly, and in a bid to avoid a situation where members are caught in the crossfire of multiple regulations, we respectfully request the Commission’s guidance on how to proceed with the NITDA on the aforementioned Frameworks and Regulation. This guidance will provide the much-needed clarity for the industry moving forward, ALTON argued.

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