Safeguarding Nigeria’s Investment In Telecoms Through Legal, Regulatory Enforcements

Adebayo-Shittu

A report published by the Internet Crime Complaint Centre, which is a partnership between the United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Centre, in 2010, revealed that Nigeria ranks third among the list of top 10 sources of cybercrime in the world.

This translates to 8 per cent, behind the United States’ 65 per cent and United Kingdom’s 9.9 per cent

The publication also ranks Nigeria as the first in the African region as the target and origin of malicious cyber activities.

Unfortunately, Nigeria is perceived as having carved a niche as the source of “419-mails,” named after Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code (Cap. 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990).

The correlation between cybercrime, fraud and money laundering and other emerging crimes such as terrorism, human trafficking, and drug smuggling cannot be over-emphasised. Speaking during the opening ceremony of the first annual conference on combating financial fraud, cybercrime and other cross-border crimes in Abuja, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, stressed the need for the review of the nation’s statutory provisions and enforcement regulations to enhance successful investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of these offences.

He said, “Given the frightening statistics on the devastating financial effect of these crimes, it is clear that any inaction on our part is a danger to future growth, stability, and harmony with our neighbouring countries. We must, therefore, devise initiatives that will check the rise of rogue technologies and internet sites which create an atmosphere that encourages these crimes.

“There is urgent need for us to consider and prioritise the reform of our laws. This need is heightened by the imperative of conformance with the primary concerns of law and order, national security, and public interest. This conference, therefore, provides an invaluable platform to demonstrate the sort of foresight that will result in the development of responsive statutory provisions and enforcement regulations that will strengthen our institutions, thereby enhancing successful investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of these offences.”

Presenting a paper titled “Sanctions and Enforcement of Legal and Regulatory Measures in the Telecommunications Industry: Improving Nigeria’s Investment,” the executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta, noted that the rapid growth and development of telecommunications and its impact on daily lives, economic development, and national security requires such conferences to enable the commission critically articulate its policies and enlighten the general public on its mandate.

The NCC boss said that Section 1(d) of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 encourages local and foreign investments in the Nigerian communications industry, stating that the introduction of innovative services and practices in the industry is in accordance with international best practices and trends. Danbatta stated that the NCC has in its efforts to ensure foreign investment and proliferation of innovation in the industry continued to provide a level playing field in the issuance of operational licences, numbering, spectrum, and other available telecommunications resources to operators, saying that fair regulatory policies has also been entrenched in accordance with the expectation of the act.

He, however, noted that there is bound to be contraventions in any environment where investment, innovation, and competition is rooted, hence the act has, therefore, empowered the commission to issue sanctions and enforce compliance where regulations, guidelines, or directions are contravened.

He further noted the constant and disturbing use of mobile phones and the internet in the commission of heinous crimes, such as kidnapping, insurgency, fraud, cross border crimes, armed robbery and the like, saying that the commission collaborates with relevant security agencies to significantly reduce and possibly eliminate such challenges in the nation.

“The commission has established a good Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between it and the Nigeria Police Force, the Office of the National Security Adviser and other security agencies, especially in the area of information dissemination, compelling the network operators to cooperate with these security agencies in the course of their onerous function of criminal investigations and such related matters.

“The NCC has been in constant liaison with all the security agencies using its enforcement powers in the prevention/combating of financial fraud, cybercrime, and other related cross-border crimes,” Danbatta said.

He also said that the commission has established the department of new media and information security with the responsibility to facilitate collaborations by bringing together agencies, especially law enforcement agencies, industry leaders, and cyber security experts to enhance capacity to prevent, defend, and respond to cyber threat.

“Essentially, the department acts as an interface between the law enforcement agencies and the telecommunications sector stakeholders in all aspects of cyber security,” he added.

The NCC’s helmsman, represented by the head of Legal and Regulatory Services Department, Mrs Yetunde Akinloye, emphasised the commission’s determination to deliver on its mandate of implementing policies that would further develop the telecommunications market in Nigeria and its determination to protect the NCA and NCC regulations and guidelines against contravention, especially by wilful operators, even as he noted that sanctions and enforcement remain a veritable tool for the enforcement of the contravened policies.

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