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Counterfeit phones menace persist in Nigeria

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• NCC plans new technology to curb the challenge
The menace of counterfeit phones and other devices may remain in Nigeria unless drastic actions are deployed by the Federal Government.
Stakeholders urged the government to become more combative rather than being re-active in the fight against the menace in the country, which they claimed is robbing the economy significantly.

Already, the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF), disclosed that the global economy loses about $6 billion yearly to substitute phones as a result of grey market activities. About $3 billion is said to be lost yearly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where Nigeria is a leading telecoms market.

It was gathered that 180 million counterfeit mobile phones are sold globally yearly and represent about 13 per cent of global sale, and eight per cent in the EU.

The Guardian learnt that counterfeiting has increased by almost 50 per cent within three years of a major raid by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) , on the Computer Village, at Otigba, Ikeja, Lagos.

To curb Nigeria’s growing exposure to this menace, the stakeholders said the economy should be made conducive and robust, especially with needed infrastructure put in place to facilitate rapid development. This, they claimed, would enable the people to have access to cheaper and more reliable mobile devices.

They submitted that it won’t be out of place if foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), which have sold over five million units in Nigeria, are urged to establish a plant in the country.

Above all, they argued that it is crucial to have local Nigerian production of mobile devices if the country must be competitive. According to them, avenuesthat encourages the menace in the region must be blocked.

They warned that if these measures are not taken, Nigeria may remain a dumping ground for other nations’ products and services.Gathered at the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) organised telecoms forum, which pitched the regulator against the operators in Lagos, stakeholders said efforts must be made to block the usage of fake and cloned phones in the country through the use of technology.

While recommending what India did to curb the menace, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Teletok Nigeria Limited, Pradeep Kumar, explained that the Indian government gave a three-month ultimatum that fake phone users should change it or have the SIM blocked. He said when the SIM is blocked, new SIMs are not issued.

Kumar, who recommended local assembly and manufacturing, said a major solution is to have the phones in the country registered. He linked three major challenges to fake phones, including causing health hazards to consumers; low maintenance cycle, and loss of huge revenues on the part of government.

According to him, if there is local assemblage, it will provide an avenue for the phones to be registered from source and through that process, activities of counterfeiters are checked.From his perspective, Sales Manager, Phones45, Hamin Babatunde, said Authorities are lukewarm in combating the menace, and challenged government and its agencies to find a lasting solution to the issue.

According to him, government should by all means discover where these phones come from; know the centre for distribution and importation of such phones. He disclosed that so many cloned phones are sold at the Computer Village in broad day light, and on several online platforms with highest level of impunity.

To Mayowa Adekoya of Unotelos Limited, besides the fact that revenues are lost through unpaid duties as a result of the activities of counterfeiters, there is also the SIM Box scenario, where operators come into Nigeria because of the arbitrage between the international and local calls.

“They bring in these devices that can take multiple SIMs, by so doing by-passing the interconnect path to deliver calls to operators. Hence, the operators and the country lose revenues. The devices they use are products of counterfeiting. Something drastic must be done as fast as possible.”

In his presentation earlier, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, said counterfeiting is a global challenge that has elicited a common disquiet among stakeholders worldwide, especially in respect of the continued influx of counterfeit and illegal ICT devices in both developed and developing countries.

According to him, Nigeria is not in any way immune to this problem, saying the challenges posed by this menace are quite devastating, hindering the progress made so far in ICT usage and processes in terms of its economic, social, environmental, and security impacts on the country.

Danbatta said a Mobile Device Management System (MDMS), has been conceived. “The proposed MDMS will have the capacity to facilitate the mandatory registration of all SIM-based devices in Nigeria, block all stolen, counterfeit, illegal or otherwise substandard SIM-based devices from operators’ networks and interface with the Customs Service, Tax Authority, Security Agencies, Standards Organisations and other relevant agencies to ensure the full registration, payment of duties and taxes due on those devices and the protection of security and privacy of users in Nigeria,”, Danbatta stated.

From SON’s perspective, the Director General, Osita Aboloma, who was represented by Head of Ports and Border, Yahaya Bukar, said most of the counterfeit devices come through the ports and borders, especially the Airport. He said by virtue of the enabling SON Act, Act 14 of 2015, gave the Customs more power and ability to place stiffer penalties on defaulters.

“We have established procedures for our processes to be able to check some of these substandard products that come in. We stopped cloning of Tecno phones worth N100 million in Kano recently. It is all about information sharing. “The cloned phones and substandard phones are actually economic wastage products. It Constitute dumping, at the end of the day, it becomes useless to the community. Users can be exposed to high radiation, which can affect them. These are the challenges with such substandard products.“For products coming into Nigeria at the ports and borders, they must be SONCAP certified. So any phone that doesn’t meet our requirement, we stop and confiscate them.”

SON is still restricted in the Port. We are not in the Port until we are invited by the Customs. Atimes, NCS see SON as an enemy, so some things are blocked from us. We are saying that there should be more synergy between NCS, SON and other agencies of government including NCC to be able to fight this menace. Also there is need to share information, even from manufacturers and vendors if we must win this fight”.


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