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SSS, Police Get Powers to Tap Phones

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Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) plans to introduce lawful interception (LI), a legally sanctioned official access to private communications, such as telephone calls or e-mail messages in a bid to enhance national security, prevent crime and aid criminal investigations.

Under the initiative, in response to a warrant from a judge, lawful interception is performed simply by applying a ‘tap’ on the telephone line of the target, making it possible for security agencies in Nigeria to listen to terrorist and criminal cell phone calls and gather communications intelligence on their dark activities.

The commission said it is drawing powers from Section 70 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 and all other powers enabling it in that regard.

It has not however fixed a date for the takeoff of the controversial policy which critics said can be used by repressive governments to intimidate opposition.

A draft guideline posted on NCC website requires service providers and Internet service providers to implement their networks to explicitly support authorized electronic surveillance.

“These regulations are made to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the lawful interception of Communications in Nigeria, the collection and disclosure of intercepted Communications. These Regulations shall; provide the legal and regulatory framework for the lawful interception of Communications in Nigeria and to put into effect the provisions of sections 146 and 147 of the Act; specify the nature and types of Communications to be intercepted; prescribe penalties for non-compliance with these Regulations; provide a notification procedure to the Commission of all Warrants issued, amended renewed or cancelled under these Regulations; ensure the privacy of subscribers as contained in the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria is persevered” the commission said.

According to the NCC, a fine of N5 million awaits a service provider or any of its officers which fails to comply with the provisions of the regulation.

“If such an offence is continuing, such a Licensee or officer shall be liable to a daily default penalty of N 500,000; the Commission may revoke the License of the Licensee for failure to comply with the regulation. The Commission shall give a prior written notice to the Licensee of such revocation, not less than [30] days to the withdrawal of the License. In addition the Commission may institute an action for non-compliance by way of an injunction or a specific performance or any or such other judicial means of enforcing a duty or obligation imposed on a Licensee pursuant to this regulation” it said.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that though lawful interception has existed since the inception of electronic communications in the form “wiretapping”, it has become increasingly necessary now because of the sophistication of criminal enterprises in exploiting emerging communications channels.

The criminal activities pose real challenge to organizations responsible for protecting public safety including the police and courts,

It would be recalled that office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) had in early 2010 summoned all telecom operators in the country recently and tabled the proposed initiative.

At the meeting were the House of Representative Committee on Communications, telecom operators as well as the minister of information and communications

The office of the NSA had given all technical data to lawful interception and requested its vendors to contact their consultant for any clarification.

The office has also given a deadline which expired on July 6, 2010 for all technical enquiries following which it is expected to release the implementation schedule for the lawful interception.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that the federal government has directed its consultants to put in place law interception provisions including secure access to protect information and insure network integrity.

It is also expected to be undetectable with secure transport to authorized law enforcement agencies as well as scalable and high availability to accommodate changing network environments.

Lawful interception is expected to help address concerns over ARPU, telecommunications fraud, denial of service attacks, customer satisfaction, and growing security fears – particularly over global terrorist activities.

Chijoke Nwosu, a security consultant applauded the initiative and said that in today’s unstable environments, the need for intelligence information is vital in preventing and combating crime.  He however warned that high security requirements for LI systems are important to prevent possible manipulation and misuse.

Nodding in agreement, John Iyene Owobokiri, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek in-house legal expert, however said that Lawful interception has a strong legal basis.

According to Owobokiri, there is need to complement the multifaceted regulation of lawful interception with elaborated provisions of law concerning the requirements for the design and development of lawful interception systems.

On the other side of the divide, concerns have been raised as critics said such move would amount to infringement of peoples’ privacy.

Amnesty International is concerned by instances where the provision of powerful surveillance and interception capabilities to repressive states are contributing to human rights violations carried out by the police, security and intelligence forces.

Though the organization said that it is not opposed to the transfer of surveillance in general, but such technologies have inherent capabilities that facilitate human rights abuses by security forces in repressive countries.


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Ignore Rumours, Telcos Not Laying 5G Cables- NCC

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Telecom operators are not laying 5G fibre optic cables in Lagos and other parts as claimed in videos, audio and text messages circulating on the social media, according to Prof Umar Danbatta, executive vice- chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)

Ignore Rumours, Telcos Not Laying 5G Cables- NCC

Danbatta, in a statement on Wednesday, said the laying of fibre optic cables, which was ongoing, and the other telecoms equipment by mobile network operators was to expand their network infrastructure across the country to provide more efficient services to consumers.

The NCC boss said the claim that some digging and laying of fibre optic cables by telecom operators in Lagos and in some other states was connected to 5G equipment deployment was totally wrong.

“As we speak, any information suggesting or claiming that the equipment being deployed by the network operators is 5G equipment is pure misinformation deliberately orchestrated by individuals bent on creating ill-feelings in the industry,” Danbatta said.

Danbatta described the 5G claims as unfounded and ill-motivated and called on Nigerians to disregard them no matter who is making the claims.

 


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Helios Towers Halts African Expansion

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Telecommunications tower infrastructure company, Helios Towers has announced that it cannot go ahead with the investment on its expansion plans for Africa, in the light of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic that has also hit telecoms markets in Africa.

Helios Towers CEO Kash Pandya said the current environment does not favour acquisition operations.

“It’s not that the talks are stalled, because you can always have conference calls, but for real mergers and acquisitions to happen, you need things like field investigations. It will be slower for a few months, but the world will have to return to normal at some point.”

In Africa, Helios Towers currently operates in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana and South Africa.

Aside its current markets, Helios Towers had previously expressed interests in the Ethiopian market where it is aiming to acquire 2,500 towers over the next five years, and the intention is to construct a similar number of towers in the country within the same period.

Pandya noted that the company has had to deal with similar health-related threats to the telecom sector in DR Congo.

“We have gained some experience in this kind of situation with regard to comparable and difficult moments crossed in some of our markets, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Ebola epidemic,” he said.

Pandya however expressed optimism in the ability of the telecoms market to weather the storm being created by the current health crisis.

It would be recalled that in October 2019, Helios Towers raised funds after listing its shares on the London Stock Exchange via an initial public offering. The company said proceeds would finance its entry into new African markets and add to a portfolio of almost 7,000 towers.

Mid-March 2020, the company released its results for the year to 31 December 2019 which showed revenue increased by 9% year-on-year to US$388 million from US$356 million in 2018. The company attributed the growth to continued growth in the number of sites and tenancies.

“Helios Towers has had another strong year, both financially and operationally. Revenues increased +9% to US$388-million, Adjusted EBITDA grew 16% to US$205-million. Our operating profit was a touch below breakeven at US$-5 million and included US$63 million of exceptional items, deal costs and non-cash costs related to our value-accretive site consolidation program,” Pandya said.

For 2020 and beyond, the CEO said the company will continue to focus on driving profitable revenue expansion by leveraging the exciting growth in its sub-Saharan markets, long-term client contracts and sustained improvements in its operations, while also prioritising further inorganic opportunities.

“Helios Towers is investing heavily in local expertise, capabilities and training that deliver the services for our MNO customers and their users, as well as generating broader economic benefits in the countries in which we operate. We also remain keenly focused on delivering on the structural opportunities present across Africa,” Pandya stated.


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Governors, MTN Partner to Halt Spread of COVID-19 with Data

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Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and MTN Nigeria have agreed to use the vulnerability model to drive a data-driven approach to stopping the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.

Governors, MTN Partner to Halt Spread of COVID-19 with Data

Both have reiterated the importance of cancelling all deductions and deferring or restructuring all commercial debt service payments on the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)-owned debts.

The agreement with MTN Nigeria was reached Sunday at the meeting held to deliberate on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The approval was given by the governors after the Forum received a presentation from Mazen Mroue, chief operating officer and Olubayo Adekanmbi, chief transformation officer, MTN Nigeria, on the ongoing collaboration with the NGF Secretariat to profile States vulnerability to the spread of the coronavirus based on parameters such as population age and density, travel history, location, income level.

In a communique signed by Governor Kayode Fayemi, chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, members also emphasized the necessity for stronger collaboration with States because they are best positioned to administer palliatives to mitigate the impact of the crisis, including the distribution of food and essential materials to households to help them cope with the expected loss of income and livelihoods.

This was following a briefing from Boss Mustapha, secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), on the activities of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 which he chairs, the Forum having commended the SGF and his team for the commitment in leading a national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Forum expressed appreciation to the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for their pledge to support States increase their capacity to mitigate the spread of the virus and care for confirmed cases through the construction of isolation centres and the distribution of personal protective equipment to States. The governors stressed the need for CACOVID to work directly with the States in the distribution of palliatives.

Governors unanimously supported the unification of exchange rates into a single, market-determined window and the use of the market-determined exchange rate to calculate all revenues due to the federation.

The NGF Chairman had briefed state governors on ongoing coordination with the World Bank to mobilise support for States to mitigate the economic and social cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ongoing plans include accelerated disbursement of existing and new financing for States under the State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme-for-Results, and mitigation and recovery support for expenditures to protect livelihoods, support local economic activity and recovery over the next 18 months to 2 years.


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