Having identified six telecoms operators that are involved in call masking and refilling, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is considering outright revocation or suspension of the licences of those involved by next week based on their responses in defence of their action.
It was reported last week that NCC had concluded its independent investigation on six telecoms companies involved in call masking and refilling and wrote them to defend themselves before imposing the necessary sanction on them.
NCC’s investigation showed that the six operators were in connivance with international callers to operate masked calls in Nigeria.
An insider source from NCC, however said that the commission would impose the maximum possible penalties on any of its licensees implicated in the practice of masking of international telephone calls.
According to the source, “As such, it is likely that the operating licenses of some of the interconnect exchange and other licensees involved in the practice would either be revoked or suspended in the coming week.”
The source said NCC frowned at their involvement because their action poses national security risk and threat to the Nigerian economy, and described the act as an offence punishable by law.
In technical parlance, call masking and refilling is an attempt by callers to hide their true numbers when making calls, especially international calls, which are not charged, because the caller’s identity is completely hidden on the network.
It was gathered that the commission and senior operatives from the nation’s security services met with representatives of the said licensees at the commission’s Abuja offices last Wednesday to confront them with some of the evidence at the disposal of the commission and to give them yet another opportunity to defend themselves.
In accordance with the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act and its subsidiary regulations, the implicated licensees have been given till January 31 to show cause why the commission should not either revoke or suspend their operating licenses in view of evidence of their involvement now at the disposal of the commission and the security agencies.
“Based on the critical impacts of this nefarious practice on national security and consumer experience, the commission is determined to decisively deal with any of its licensees implicated in the scam. We do not want to expose the country to any further embarrassment. At the very least, serious sanctions would be imposed on them if it is found that their involvement does not justify suspension or revocation of their licenses” said an official of the commission familiar with the matter.
The source further disclosed that the commission has taken the pains to very strictly follow the provisions of the applicable laws so that no one can claim to be unfairly treated, given the severity of the sanctions the commission is planning to impose.
Meanwhile, customer experience data monitored by the commission indicates that there has been a noticeable reduction in the volume of masked calls being received by subscribers. This is reflective of the very aggressive measures the commission is taking to deal with the menace. “Nonetheless, we are not taking anything for granted. We will continue to aggressively monitor all our licensees regardless of their size or the scope of their operations. Anyone found wanting would be strictly dealt with in accordance with law,” the NCC official said.
The licensees involved include Medallion Communications Limited, Interconnect Cleaning House Nigeria Limited, Niconnx Communication Limited, Breeze Micro Limited, Solid Interconnectivity and Exchange Telecommunications Limited.