Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) said it is currently reviewing the rule base to ensure a robust set of rules for the industry, primarily to achieve fair competition and consumer quality experience.
Mr. Ephraim Nwokonneya, head, Compliance Monitoring at the Commission, speaking at a capacity building workshop for ICT journalists in Lagos said that, ‘Nigerian telecommunication revolution’ in the last 12 years has brought with it, increase in investments in the industry especially Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), significant growth in the number of operating companies, massive growth in subscriber population, intense competition resulting in innovative tariff plans and promotions.
He added that the revolution also has attached challenges like quality of service which has tested the regulatory competence of the Commission amongst others.
“Consistent with the above and the powers conferred on NCC by Section 70 of the NCA 2003, the Commission developed the Nigerian Communications (Enforcement Processes, Etc) Regulations 2005; Commence enforcement actions/investigation following results of prior compliance monitoring exercise or verified consumer complaints; Provide evidence of alleged violations to the responsible service provider; Provide opportunity for the service provider to respond; Propose relevant sanctions to be enforced on erring service provider in accordance with NCC Enforcement Processes Regulations; Obtain management’s approval and communicate sanctions to the service provider and Provide opportunity for appeal”.
Comparing countries like Brazil, Singapore, United Kingdom and Nigeria Nwokonneya, reiterated that NCC has followed international best practices in enforcement procedures, as he stated that NCC has similarities on enforcement procedures and timelines involved. For instance, timeline for offender’s defence/response shows Nigeria is ahead of Brazil and Singapore that give 15 days’ respectively, while Nigeria and UK give 14 days and 10 days respectively.
Also, final decision is reached on such cases after 30 day from conclusion of investigation in Brazil, 60 days in the UK and Singapore and 30 days in Nigeria. All the countries involved usually publish their final decisions.
Aside that, Nwokonneya said, “Every regulator has a variety of sanctioning tools to enforce compliance to its rules and regulations. However such sanctioning rules must ensure that the severity of sanctions matches the severity of the offence/violation. Some regulators have a specific schedule of fines e.g Nigeria. Some regulators levy fines based on a percentage of the offending licencee’s revenue e.g Peru, Poland, Turkey”.
He listed typical enforcement sanctions applied within the industry to include, “Administrative fines; The specific administrative fines are contained in the Second Schedule of the NCC Enforcement Processes Regulations. Schedule 3 of the NCC Qos Regulations 2012 also contain fines for contravention of each KPI.
“Cases of the N1.17B and N.647B fines against operators in 2012 and 2014 respectively for poor quality of service come to mind here. Confiscation of equipments; Denial of regulatory services; Revocation of licence”.
Although, some schools of thought have argued whether monetary sanctions by way of fines is the most effective way of enforcing compliance with rules and regulations in the industry, adding that the fines may not be severe enough to deter wrong doing and monetary sanctions deny operators the needed funds for network expansions, the Head of Compliance Monitoring at the Commission, said that Monitoring and Compliance can only be effective within the orbits of the available rules and regulations.
He maintained that the Commission would always draw strength from the provisions of Section 70 of the NCA, 2003 to develop a robust set of rules and regulations to guide operations of every facet of the market necessary to ensure ethical practices and to achieve consumer protection.
Presently, NCC boasts of over 20 Regulations, Guidelines and Directions.
These include, Numbering, Type approval of telecoms equipments, Interconnection, Competition practices, Consumer Code of Practices, Universal Service, Quality of Service and Enforcement Processes.
Others are Registration of Telephone Subscribers, Frequency Pricing, Number Portability, Annual Operating Levy, Lawful Interception of Communications and Technical Specification for the Installation of Masts and Towers etc.
(L-): Professor Raymond Akwule, president, Digital Bridge Institute, Tony Ojobo, director, Public Affairs (NCC) and Dr. Pious Onobhayedo, head, Design & New Media Department, School of Media & Communication, Pan Atlantic University, during NCC orga