Telecommunications subscribers in the country will not be able to stop or block unsolicited messages on their phones until after the general elections, Tech Track Africa has learnt. This came as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) suspended its existing directive to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on Do-Not-Disturb (DND).
NCC had introduced the DND in 2016 in response to myriads of complaints from subscribers over incidences of unsolicited messages and calls, which were being pushed through the networks by Value Added Services (VAS) providers. That led to the introduction of the ‘2442’ short code, which enables the subscribers block unwanted messages.
However, the telecom regulator in a statement on Thursday said the use of the code and its implementation by the MNOs has been temporarily suspended to allow the telcos “disseminate specific information on voter education on behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)”. The NCC said that in implementing the suspension, MNOs are to be mindful of existing directives regarding the timing and regularity of such messages and the fact that the temporary suspension is only with regards to the specific messages on voters’ education.
As at August last year, 11 million subscribers were said to have activated the DND code. While the subscribers have the options of partial activation, which allows them to select the messages they want to receive and block others, and full activation, which blocks all unsolicited messages, analysis of the statistics released by the telecom regulator showed that 99 per cent of the subscribers opted for full activation.
But with the suspension, those who have activated the code will also be receiving all the political messages for voter education, according to the Commission.
It will be recalled that the NCC had issued guidance to all MNOs and Value Added Service Providers to the effect that the MNOs ensure that their facilities are not used to disseminate political or religious contents which are abusive, insulting, intimidating and harassing, and/or which incite violence, hatred or discrimination against any person or group of persons. They are also mandated to provide service to participants in the political process, only to the extent that their licence and the regulatory process permit. The telcos are also charged to maintain the principle of neutrality in all their dealings regarding all the political process, in addition to seeking and obtaining the approval of the Commission at all times. The NCC said it would strictly monitor the activities of the MNOs for the duration of the temporary suspension.