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FG kicks against proposed reduction in age limit for access to telcos’ services

By Adeyemi Adepetun
28 October 2021   |   3:40 am
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), yesterday, rejected suggestions made by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) that procurement of communications services by subscribers should start at the age of 15 years...

NCC Executive Vice-Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta. PHOTO: Twitter

•NCC referred operators to Labour Act, NIMC

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), yesterday, rejected suggestions made by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) that procurement of communications services by subscribers should start at the age of 15 years. Smile Communications, MTN and Airtel made this proposal.

Smile Communications recommended in the alternative that the NCC should provide a standard process for SIM registration of minors (persons under 18 years) in the business rules. Airtel based its suggestion on the large demography of Nigerians within that age range of between 15 years and 18 years.

This suggestion formed part of the report of the public inquiry on the Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations (as amended) and Business Rules and Operational Processes for implementation of the national policy for SIM activation.

Uploaded by NCC yesterday, the report was the outcome of the public inquiry held virtually on October 5. The Commission disclosed that submissions were received from operators including Smile Communications Limited; Airtel Networks Limited; MTN Nigeria Communications Limited; Association of Telephone, Cable TV & Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS) and VDT Communications Limited.

The Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, in his opening remarks, stated that the public inquiry was consistent with the rule making process of the commission and also in line with the strategic collaboration and partnership pillar of the Five Point Agenda of the NCC.

He also added that the inquiry was a testament to the commitment of the commission to keep up with the pace of the dynamic growth in the industry.

On the 15 years age limit, NCC responded, saying “Smile and the other operators are invited to appreciate the different thematic basis for setting the age limitations by the Labour Act and the NIMC Act. Registration of SIM has a peculiar contractual implication. The comment is not accepted.”

NCC had fortnight ago, while denying claims that it was disqualifying Nigerians from getting GSM, explained that the age of 18 years for SIM acquisition proposed in the draft regulation was contingent on the constitutional provision, which makes 18 years the age of consent in Nigeria.

The Commission said SIM acquisition is a contract between service providers and their subscribers that requires the subscriber to have proper legal status, be of matured mind and rational enough to bear certain responsibilities, obligations and liabilities imposed by a contract.

NCC said parents and guardians can acquire SIMs for their children and wards, but be ready to bear any consequences should there be.

Smile Communications and MTN also suggested that the definition of “subscriber information” be amended to read “subscriber information refers to the NIMC Foundational data of subscriber recorded and stored by licensees or the Registration Agents in accordance with the Business Rules.” In response, NCC reminded that the NIMC Foundational data is a basis for validation and verification of National Identity Number and is not part of subscribers’ information.

Smile opined that the regulations should apply to persons and licensees including subscribers to communications services using subscription mediums within and outside the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

On that, NCC described the comment as a mis-characterization of the policy, stressing that the scope outlined in the draft provisions are wide enough to cover all services that will use a physical or electronic SIM in Nigeria, as such “the comment is not accepted.”

On the activation of SIM cards, Airtel opined that there is a need for clarity regarding the activation window, as the 60 days’ timeline indicated in the draft is at variance with the 30 days’ timeline provided in the draft Business Rules. NCC noted the comment and disclosed that the two provisions will be aligned.

Further, Airtel recommended the inclusion of a process for the following instances, including transfers from parents to their children, transfer between family members, transfers between individuals, among others. NCC said this will be captured in another regulatory instrument.

The telecoms regulator accepted MTN’s position, which claimed that the retention of the Subscriber Registration period is no longer practical and should be expunged.

On its part, ATCIS opined that Regulation 17 of the policy is an attempt to limit the number of lines a subscriber may have. It therefore suggested that the subscribers be allowed to register as many SIMs as possible provided they are registered.

NCC appreciated the comment and promised to take it into consideration whenever it wishes to review this postulation.

On its part, VDT Communications wanted the Commission to clearly define the process of transmitting subscribers’ data to the central database and every synchronisation or integration should be clearly defined and laid out in a well detailed manner for licensees.

NCC noted the comment and promised that it will be considered during further review of the draft Regulations.

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