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Pantami fear muted NCC on ALTON petition—Investigation

Wednesday’s designation and swearing in of the immediate past Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr Isa Pantami, as Nigeria’s new Minister of Communications, has explained why the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) technically maintained official silence on the trending petition from the Association of Licenced Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).

Recall that just a few weeks after his nomination as a minister, Isa introduced a couple of frameworks for the technology space in Nigeria. One of the frameworks he introduced at the helms of NITDA is the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, which was highlighted earlier in the year.

However, not being comfortable with the introduction, ALTON wrote a petition to NCC, the core regulator of telecoms, alleging that NITDA, through the five regulatory instruments it rolled out in January, was usurping NCC’s role on data services, saying the framework which empowers the agency to license Public Internet Access (PIA) providers is a usurpation of the NCC function.

The Association also claimed NITDA’s “Framework for Data Centre Facilities”, and “Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR)”, amounted to multiple regulations that would pose a challenge in the industry.

“The key concern is that NITDA appears to be assuming the role of a parallel regulator for data services,” ALTON had said in a petition to NCC.

But in a swift response without waiting for NCC’s reaction, Head, Legal Services and Board Matters, Emmanuel Edet, said no single regulator in Nigeria has a converged mandate on ICT.

According to him, “Various agencies have different roles to play in developing and regulating ICT in Nigeria as dictated by their mandates and enabling laws. Furthermore, no single entity is regulated by only one regulator in Nigeria. Regulators in the country work in a cooperative and complementary capacity, resolving mandate overlaps in a cooperative manner.”

Edet reiterated that NITDA is saddled with the responsibility of establishing regulatory frameworks and guidelines for smooth operation in the IT sector.

He explained that the Framework and Guidelines for PIA 2019, was issued to ensure the safe use of free or subsidised publicly accessible internet service in Nigeria, adding that NITDA was charged by concerned stakeholders to check the regime of publicly accessible Internet service considering its national security dimensions.

Edet further averred that the Framework and Guidelines aimed to create and promote a mutually-beneficial and friendly environment for both public Internet access providers and users in Nigeria, as directed at PIAPs.

“PIAPs include any business or other entity that provides Internet access without charge or offers a partially subsidised Internet access to members of the public. The concerns, which NITDA aims to address through this regulatory instrument, are cybersecurity and cybercrime; personal data breaches; and crime detection, prevention, and investigation.

“NITDA is enabled to address these concerns by virtue of Section 6(c) and (m) of the NITDA Act, which mandates the Agency to provide guidelines for  electronic data interchange in Nigeria, and to accelerate Internet and intranet penetration in Nigeria, and promote sound Internet governance.”

Furthermore, Edet said data centre operations are principally information technology systems, which support the entire IT value chain. He noted that reference to Executive Orders 003(2017) and 005(2018), mainly cite the added Presidential Directives on local content promotion, whose fundamental mandate arises from the NITDA Act, which has been cited.

According to him, the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT (2019), explicitly provides that data and information management companies shall register their products, capabilities, and organisations on the NITDA portal, which should be provided free of charge, and devoid of bureaucracy, to ensure NITDA awareness of available resources.

He said companies are expected to host government data locally in-country, and shall not for any reason host any government data outside without express approval from NITDA and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

Business Hilights had earlier reported that why the NCC decided to maintain silence on ALTON’s petition may not be unconnected with the possibility of Dr Pantami becoming the Minister so as to avoid early inter-agency crisis.

However, there are strong indications that ALTON may review the latest development ahead of next line of action considering the fact that the man it had petitioned against is now the Minister in charge of the industry.

Industry analysts also fear chances of rough relationship between the new minister and industry stakeholders based on his latest antecedents and controversial policy initiatives.