Customs must check fake phones' importation, says NCC CEO

In this pocket interview with the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), he says the telecoms sector has done well ahead of other sectors of the economy. Juwah said the quality of service in the country is far better than that of Dubai. He spoke on the sidelines of the launch of corporate governance code in for the telecoms sector in Lagos, Kokumo Goodie was there.

What if the operators fail to abide by the code of corporate governance launched. What will be the sanction since they are not compelled to do so by law?

Well we have guidelines. Sometimes we penalise service providers we don’t advertise; we advertise when they fall below our minimum parameters. For example, if they do promos without our permission, we penalize them, we don’t advertise these in the papers so, whenever they contravene our rules, we penalize them.

Poor quality of service (QoS) remains a challenge in the country. When will customers get respite?

The QoS, I must confess, has to do with a lot o things but the important thing is that the operators must expand their network so that there is less congestion on the network. That is the most important thing. Secondly, we must find a way to address the issue of vandalism and the issue of what we call multiple regulations where state governments lock up BTS and deprive people from gaining access.

For that now, we are preparing legislation to the National Assembly which will protect telecoms infrastructure as a crititcal sector of the nation. I hope with these interventions and the service providers investing more, increasing their capacity, and there is a bill which spells out severe punishment for people who vandalise telecoms equipment. I think we will start seeing the end of this QoS of problem soon.

The quality of mobile phones used has been identified as one of the causative agents for low QoS. Why is NCC limiting itself to type-approval of phones?

Well the issue of phones is very difficult; we don’t control the import of phones. All sorts of phones come into the country. We have on our website, a set of approved phones and I think the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has them too. So the entry point in Nigeria should control phones. NCC cannot go from individual to individuals asking them: which phone are you using and confiscating them. So there is the quality of service issue that come from the interference that come from the quality of phones.

What is the level of synergy among the NCC, NCS and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON)?

NCC has always been in talks, in discussion and information sharing with the Customs Service and it is really their duty (to check the influx of all manners of mobile phones), they have our list of approved phones but phones come through smuggling and other means. You have to bear that in mind. A lot of the cheaper phones come through smuggling. The bigger phones such as Apple phone come through specific distributors and they come to the Customs. The small phones can contribute to the issue of QoS because they are not approved and they are not well manufactured;  they come from the grey market in Nigeria

Unsolicited calls, SMS keep disturbing customers. What is the NCC doing about this?

Our regulation in these respect is that one, they must provide the means for you to opt in. if you get a message, and you decide to accept it, then you don’t blame the service providers.  Also, we asked them to provide a means for you to opt out. And all the operators that don’t comply with these directives, whenever we have subscribers come forward and report to us, we penalize the service providers.

What about the calls which the operators make with 11-digit numbers?

Well the NCC has avenues of complaints. We have a call centre where you can call us and complain. I am just hearing this for the first time that they call. You see, without your complaining, there is nothing we can do. But if you complain, we will take it up with them

A lot of subscribers do not know the number to call whenever they have issues with their service providers and wish to report to the NCC. Could you share the number with the public?

 The number is 622. It is toll-free and I assure you, any time a call is made through that line, there is always somebody at the other end to pick it and address your complaints.

You said QoS in Nigeria is better than Dubai’s; why then are you sanctioning the operators?

Yes the quality of telecoms service is far better than that of power, can you talk about power? It is even better than that of the banking sector. This is the only sector that has been providing seamless service 24/7 to customers in the country. No other sector does that. And if you know any, name it. It is a sector that provides connectivity to the customers 24/7.

On sanctions, you see we want an improvement in service. That is why we sanction operators. We want an improvement in service, so we have mandated minimum standards. So if they achieve this minimum standard, everybody will be happy. When they fail to achieve this, we penalise them.  So that explains sanctions.

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