Some telecommunications service providers are feeding fat on masking international calls coming into Nigeria, Chairman of Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, has said.
Durojaiye who said this at a workshop on Code of Corporate Governance in Kano warned telecommunications operators who had been indicted to desist from masking or face the consequences of their action.
Masking of international calls is a practice through which calls coming into the country are received by interconnect operators are rendered to appear as local calls.
Durojaiye said the regulatory commission had issued queries to indicted operators to explain why they should not be punished for their action.
He said, “The commission is particularly concerned with issues of massive interconnection indebtedness and unethical practice of masking of international calls. These sorts of unethical behaviours are part of what the Code of Corporate Governance is set up to address.
“Henceforth, the commission will be taking very tough measures against any detected unethical behaviour and industrial malpractice in order to safeguard the health of the entire industry. Compliance with the spirit of the code is a necessity.
“Going forward, the commission, as part of its initiatives to ensure compliance, will intensify monitoring level of compliance. To encourage satisfactory compliance, the commission has instituted an annual reward system to recognise and commend the most compliant companies.”
Although the NCC Chairman did not mention the service providers involved in the act, a top official at the regulatory agency had recently indicated the operators to include Medallion Communications Limited and Interconnect Cleaning House Nigeria Limited.
Others were Niconnx Communication Limited, Breeze Micro Limited and Solid Interconnectivity and Exchange Telecommunications Limited.
Our correspondent gathered that sanctions awaiting the concerned operators range from imposition of fine to revocation or suspension of licences if the law should be applied without leniency.
Also speaking at the event, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, disclosed that a leading mobile operator, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, had paid a total of N110bnfor running afoul of the directive regulating the registration of SIM cards in the country.
With the disclosure, MTN still has an outstanding of N220bn to pay to the government for the infraction of the law committed in 2015.
Although the regulatory commission had in October 2015 imposed a fine of N1.04tn on the mobile operator with headquarters in South Africa, the fine was eventually reduced to N330bn following prolonged negotiations involving authorities at the highest level including former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma and President Muhammadu Buhari.
The NCC boss said the mobile operator has a period of three years to complete the payment, adding that the purpose of sanction was not to cripple an operator.
Speaking on corporate governance, Danbatta said, “Current evaluation report of the state of the industry suggests that whilst not understating the impact of other external and fiscal issues confronting the sector, that most challenges negatively affecting the health of operators in the sector today are attributable to poor governance issues.
“It is currently rejigging its regulatory oversights in the areas of ensuring that consumers get cost effective value for money spent on telecommunication services; and that service delivery by providers are qualitative and efficient.”
President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, SAN, who was the keynote speaker at the event, said it was time to encourage mobile operators to embrace public listing of their shares.