The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it is adjusting regulatory instruments and management tools to ensure regulations are fit for future imperatives of a robust telecoms sector.
The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management (ECSM), NCC, Adeleke Adewolu, stated this during a panel discussion at the 2021 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Port Harcourt, with the general theme ‘Taking the Lead’.
Adewolu stated some specific areas the Commission working towards improving the telecoms sector.
“We are adjusting regulatory instruments and management tools to ensure regulations are fit for the future. An example is our ongoing review of the Telephone Subscriber Registration Regulations to strengthen the framework for digital identity; and the review of the Spectrum Trading Guidelines to ensure more efficient use of spectrum,” he said.
He further said NCC is laying institutional foundations to enable co-operation with other regulatory institutions and international organisations such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
According to Adewolu, NCC is also developing and adapting governance frameworks to enable the development of agile and future-proof regulation; and equally adapting regulatory enforcement activities to the “new normal”. He said this is to ensure alignment with the rapid technological changes and innovations that are emerging at a high speed and with sophistication.
Speaking on censorship, Adeleke said NCC had to opt for “a middle ground that promotes safe use of digital service platforms without necessarily stifling the exercise of the citizen’s right to free expression as guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution.”
He explained that on technology platforms, censorship manifests in three scenarios, namely, restriction of person-to-person communications; restriction of Internet access generally; or restriction of access to specific content, which governments find objectionable.
This, he said, was pursuant to constitutional provisions such as those in Section 39(3) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, which approves “any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society to prevent the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films.”
In particular, Adewolu declared that the third scenario is globally recognised as the ideal situation because one of the core responsibilities of government (as enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution) is to safeguard the lives and property of citizens.
Adewolu said that social media platforms allow instant communications without regard for impact or consequences. He insisted that self-regulation is possible, but “as we have experienced over and over again, an ill-considered post on social media can easily incite unrest and crises.”
He bemoaned the fact that leading social media platforms have demonstrated a rather unfortunate reluctance to moderate the use of their platforms for subversion and harm. “So, we cannot trust them to self-regulate.”
According to him, self-regulation has not been very effective, and interestingly, “the largest platforms are global platforms and many of them are protected by their home governments.”
“So, we cannot wholly depend on self-regulation. And whilst we cannot prevent citizens from freely expressing themselves on these platforms, it would be irresponsible for any government to allow unbridled use of these mediated communication to cause chaos and imperil lives and property. Government must act to protect social cohesion and national security,” he said.