Speech for a World Press Conference by the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta (FNSE, FAEng., FRAES, FNEEE), in Commemoration of the 2021 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) held on Monday, March 15, 2021
The Chairman and Members, Board of Commissioners, Nigerian Communications Commission
Executive Commissioners, Directors, other members of the Management and Staff of NCC
Telecom Consumers and other Stakeholders in the Nigerian Telecom Ecosystem
Gentlemen of the Press and Other Communication Professionals
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I welcome you all to this Press Conference on behalf of the Board, Management and staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
This Conference is organized by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to commemorate the WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY (WCRD) for the year 2021. The Consumer Rights Day is observed every 15th day of March.
We thank you all for responding to our call, decidedly, by honoring our invitation; and we equally thank you even more for being such a consistent partner to the Commission in diffusing information about activities of the Commission promptly and in contexts that make meaning to the telecom consumers, the general public and other stakeholders.
This conference is conceived to highlight NCC’s commitment to protecting the telecom consumers and to highlight the regulatory role of NCC with respect to protecting the Rights of the Telecom Consumers and to connect it with the global significance of today’s celebration.
NCC and the Global Vision of a Satisfied Consumer
Let me quickly and briefly recall just a few of the initiatives of the Commission, in order to spotlight how the Commission’s vision interconnects with the international consumer rights movement.
The Commission declared 2017 as Year of the Telecom Consumer, in recognition of the central place the consumer occupies in the telecom ecosystem and in the emergent digital economy. In the same year, the World Consumer Rights Day focused on “Better Digital World”. The declaration by the Commission and the focus by WCRD 2017 emphasised the need to build ‘a digital world consumers can trust’.
The theme for World Consumer Rights Day for 2021 is, “Tackling Plastic Pollution”. Activities and actions slated for this commemoration are to raise awareness and engage state and non-state actors on the global plastic pollution crisis. This is coming THREE years after the NCC drafted the NIGERIAN COMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY E-WASTE REGULATIONS in 2018.
The objective of the Regulation is to manage E-Waste; promote reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery; improve environmental management system of operators in the telecom industry; and reduce greenhouse emissions as well as enhance sustainable development efforts.
Gentlemen of the Press, further to the introduction I had earlier made to establish correlation between the vision and activities of NCC and the global consumer rights movement, permit me to recall some of the steps taken by the Commission that have direct bearing to the theme of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day.
In reconnecting with the theme for this Year’s celebration, it bears restating, that, while the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is concluding processes to issue the regulation on Electronic Waste, it is mindful of the fact that many ICT and telecom devices have plastic components, whose waste materials could worsen plastic pollution. In other words, we reckon that improper disposal of such disused ICT-plastic embedded products have grave implication on public health, and especially in achieving Goals 11, 12 and 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030. These goals speak to the imperative of adhering to practices that enhance Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production; as well as Climate Action respectively.
Technical Activities focused on Consumer Protection
The Commission, worried by the recurrent cycle of fraudulent deployment of fake and substandard mobile devices – usually made of iron and plastic components, collaborated with the Office of the National Security Adviser and other relevant government agencies to inaugurate a committee to implement Mobile Devices Management Systems (DMS). This initiative is designed as a Public-Private Partnership aimed at combating the proliferation of fake, counterfeit, substandard and cloned communication devices in the telecommunications industry. The expected result of this initiative is that, only genuine materials malleable to enduring usage are available for consumer use.
The Commission also implemented a strict type-approval process that ensures all equipment used in the telecommunications industry are of a suitable standard, both for the good of the consumers and for the preservation of our environment.
This coincidental connection between the 2021 theme for World Consumer Rights Day, “Tackling Plastic Pollution”, and the proactive initiatives of the Commission towards protecting the environment as well as efforts on tackling electronic waste in Nigeria tells the story of a shared vision for a satisfied consumer.
The Nigerian Communications Act 2003 – enjoins the Commission to protect the interest of the consumers, which the Commission has done religiously, through subsidiary legislations, guidelines and directions that proactively address consumer concerns and stipulate responsibilities of all stakeholders.
We had made declarations to curtail excesses of some operators and to expand the frontiers of freedom for the consumers. Warnings had been handed out and fines have been imposed on erring operators. Determinations have also been made by the Commission to ensure consumers are neither shortchanged nor denied their privileges and rights.
The NCC demonstrated the foregoing to reveal the extent it could go to defend and protect the interests of telecom consumers; and to successively restate its commitment to its ethos of fairness, firmness and forthrightness – the doctrinal tripod of its regulatory mandate.
The Commission has ensured full compliance with Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards registration guidelines by the service providers and telecom consumers. This is to ensure proper registration to stop the use of improperly-registered SIMs, which usage is difficult to track. Having a credible subscriber database helps in tracing a SIM card to the real owner in case of any criminal investigation. This will help in curbing the painful rise in tempo of kidnapping, robberies, banditry and similar crimes committed with the aid of the use of SIM cards.
We have made arrests and prosecutions in the past in this regard and through this effort, we have been able to sanitize the telecoms ecosystem of improperly-registered SIM cards that pose threat to national security. It is therefore pertinent to say that the linking of SIM and National Identity Number (NIN) database will further help us in this direction toward protecting the consumers and all citizens at large. In this regard, the Commission wishes to echo the voice of Mr. President by thanking all telecom subscribers for their understanding and co-operation in the ongoing SIM-NIN harmonization exercise.
The Commission has issued a number of Directions to service providers in order to ensure consumers are not shortchanged by telecom service providers. Some of the directions include: Direction on Do-Not-Disturb, Direction on Data Roll-Over, Direction on Automatic Renewal of Data Services, and Direction on Forceful Subscription to Data Services and Value-Added Services.
The Management of the Commission also takes consumer information and education very seriously. Just recently, it approved the re-structuring of our legacy consumer outreach and engagement programmes.
These modifications were made to increase our reach to telecom consumers wherever they are while also observing COVID-19 protocols.
Some of the new information and education programmes include:
• Telecom Town Halls on Radio, a phone-in dialogic programme to be hosted via radio stations across the country where consumers at the grassroots level will be engaged in their own local language;
• Telecom and The Citizen – a biweekly Twitter Live Chat targeting social media users;
• Telecom TV Dialogue – a monthly television-based discourse on topical telecom issues; and
• Telecom Consumer Conversations – which is segmented and targeted at different consumer groups including: The Village Square Dialogue, The Telecom Public Sphere, The Professionals’ Dialogue, Campus Conversation, Market Conversation and the NYSC Conversation.
The flagship outreach programme, Telecom Consumer Parliament, is still up and running. Similarly, other Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials like digital banners and factsheets in bookmarks format, have been remodeled in a way that deliver lasting value to the consumers.
Today, and right here, we are unveiling a new Consumer Handbook – a compendium of consumer information materials compiled to enhance education and protection of the consumer.
In keeping with global best practice of digital public communication for information and complaints management, the Commission continued to leverage social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, to inform and educate consumers and to use them as complaints channels for the Commission. In addition, the NCC Consumer Web Portal serves as an alternative online channel for lodging complaints and making enquiries.
The specially created toll free number 622 and DND short code 2442, are as active as ever. They are emplaced respectively to enable consumers to escalate unresolved complaints earlier reported to service providers, and to manage unsolicited messages. Just last month, we provided evidence that “NCC’s DND crashes unsolicited SMS by 96.6% in three years”.
Also, the results we are getting through the NCC Toll-free Number 622 has been phenomenal. Thousands of complaints have been received from consumers and escalated by the Commission to service providers for quick resolution to the satisfaction of affected consumers. In our latest report, of the 11,327 genuine consumer complaints received through the 622 between 2019 and 2020, 11,288 which translate to 99.1%, have been successfully resolved.
Furthermore, the Commission has reviewed the Consumer Complaint categories and Service Level Agreement (CC/SLA). The CC/SLA provides complaints categories, the timelines for resolving complaints and prescribes penalties for defaulting operators. This has ensured quantifiable improvements in consumer compliant management process by the operators.
Additionally, in view of the challenges of security in the country, the Commission has completed and launched Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) in 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The process for the completion of the centers in the remaining states of the federation is ongoing.
Gentlemen of the press, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, may I inform you that the toll-free three-digit 112 Emergency Number is created to bring succor and necessary assistance from appropriate Response Agencies (RAs) to address emergency needs of citizens.
Finally, distinguish stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem, I wish to reiterate that all activities of the Commission are designed to give assurance to the consumers that their interests are of paramount importance to the Commission. This is because without the telecom consumers, there will be no telecom operators and there would be no regulator.
Therefore, we seize this opportunity to assure millions of telecom consumers across the country that the Commission will not rest on its oars until the challenges of telecoms consumers have been reduced to the barest minimum.
Suffice it to say, that, the NCC seeks the occasion of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day to restate its commitment to Protecting, Informing and Educating the telecoms consumer. We call this our PIE Mandate to the consumers which embodies our philosophical commitment to strengthening all our consumer-centric initiatives and policies.
Distinguished members of the NCC Board of Commissioners, Directors and Staff of the Commission, respected stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem, Gentlemen of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen, as the global community celebrates the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2021, the NCC is aligning with the philosophy of this day to reiterate its commitment towards providing accurate, adequate and timely information and education that enables the consumer to take informed decisions and feel protected.
Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, FNSE, FIEEE, FAEng, FRAES
Executive Vice Chairman/CEO
Nigerian Communications Commission