The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Prof. Umar Danbatta has said that the proactive interventions of the telecom regulators helped to nip cases of call masking and refilling in the bud. Danbatta, who disclosed this during an interactive session with the media, said the started receiving complaints about cases of call masking/call refiling and SIM boxing in 2017 and swung into action.
Call masking/refilling occur when an international call is terminated in Nigeria as a local call, thereby denying the local operators charges for international call. The perpetrators compress the calls and strip them of their original numbers before terminating them on local networks.
While describing act as an anti-competitive practice and a threat to national security, Danbatta said the Commission in collaboration with the Office of the National security Adviser (ONSA), took drastic actions to identify culprit licensees, sanctioned them accordingly and barred mobile numbers identified to have been involved in masked calling from their networks.
“We also went further to carry out a Proof of Concept (PoC) and MNOs have now developed technology solutions to prevent, detect and filter masked calls on their networks,” he added.
According to the telecoms regulator, Nigeria was losing about $60 billion dollars annually to call masking activities, while the telecom operators were being denied revenue. Apart from the revenue loss to the telcos, the act of call masking poses security threat as the origin of such calls cannot be traced by security agencies in case of terrorism or kidnapping. In addition, the government was also losing revenue as taxes were not being paid over such calls.
However, with the prompt regulatory interventions, the Commission said it had successfully curbed the act.
Speaking on the Commissions areas of collaborations with other government agencies, Danbatta said the NCC had continued to collaborate with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the banks in the area of National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). “Today, Mobile network Operators (MNOs) participate fully in the provision of mobile money services to help actualise the 80% financial inclusion target of the Federal Government by the end of 2020. Through the issuance of USSD Short Codes to banks and other financial institutions, we have helped to boost financial inclusion,” he said.