‘Why NCC must intercept your phone calls’

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria’s telecom sector regulator, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) said it is seeking legal backing to intercept the calls of subscribers to protect them and ensure the security of the nation.

It argued that it has become imperative for it and the Federal Government to protect Nigerians through the interception of their communications that are considered harmful and infringe on the fundamental rights of the citizens

Dr Eugene Juwah who is the Executive Vice Chairman of the agency spoke in Abuja at a stakeholders’ forum organised to get input from the public tagged Public Inquiries on the Lawful Interception of Communications Regulations and Licensing Regulations in the telecoms sector. He argued that the regulations are designed to protect the citizens considering the high level of insecurity in the country.

Represented at forum by Dr Okechukwu Itanyi, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders at the NCC, maintained that the forum was to ensure that “the opinions and contributions of stakeholders are considered in developing a sound regulatory framework for the telecommunications industry.”

Just like the forum organised in Lagos by a group in the ICT sector, participants at the forum also kicked against certain provisions of the proposed law. They fear that it would infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens, especially business communications as those saddled with the responsibility could abuse and exploit the privilege for other purposes.

They also fear that intercepting people’s communications could expose citizens to danger, particularly as those working in the offices of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Attorney General of the Federation and other security agencies could compromise the information so intercepted for selfish purposes.

Responding, Juwah allayed the people’s fears, assuring that international best standards and practices would be adhered to by people charged with managing the information so intercepted.

 “The draft Lawful Interception Regulations aims to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the lawful interception of communications in Nigeria as well as the collection and disclosure of intercepted communications.

“In the same vein, it also specifies the nature and types of communications to be intercepted, penalties for non-compliance and measures to safeguard the privacy of citizens as contained and guaranteed under the Nigerian constitution.

“The regulations shall complement the Act and the respective licences issued by the Commission and will state the obligations of law enforcement agencies and operators in connection with the interception of communications.

“The Commission is certain that these regulations will provide the guiding standards and principles for an effective regime on lawful interception of communications and licensing in the Nigerian telecommunications industry.”

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