President Muhammadu Buhari has approved call monitoring of mobile network operators (MNOs) in Nigeria, Professor Isa Pantami, Communications, and Digital Economy Minister says.
Following the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval, the Minister says that the government will go ahead “to deploy regulatory systems to monitor, detect and block SIMBox and call masking traffic within the country’s telecommunications industry.”
Part of the approval will also see the distribution of 6,000 digital tablets to tertiary institutions under the Advanced Digital Awareness Programme for Tertiary Institutions (ADAPTI) to be implemented by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), telecoms industry regulator.
Meanwhile, Pantami says that the call monitoring plan by the government became necessary as the use of SIMBoxing and call masking have “posed a challenge in meeting the critical security information needs of the telecommunications industry.”
Minister: Call Monitoring to Address Security Challenge
The Minister did not provide details of the technology to be adopted by the government but says the hardware devices to be used for the call monitoring “are of high-end configurations/specifications meant to ensure seamless optimal functionality, bearing in mind the volume of data inflow from the four major Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).”
“The deployment of these systems will address the challenge”, Pantami says, citing that not only is it also in alignment with the Soft Infrastructure pillar of National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030, it will offer these six deliverables:
- Implementation of a system to continuously monitor incidences of SIMBOXING in the industry;
- Detection of incidences of SIMBOXING in the entire MNO networks, round the clock, in near real time or real time preferably and reporting the same in applicable formats;
- Effective blocking of calls from SIMBOXES while also blocking the SIMs being used for the activity across all operators;
- Implementation of a Call Masking/Calling Line Identification (CLI) Spoofing System to continuously monitor incidences of Call Masking/CLI Spoofing in the industry;
- Detection of incidences of Call Masking in the entire MNO networks, round the clock, in near real time or real time preferably and reporting the same in applicable formats; and
- Proactive blocking of Masked/Spoofed CLI calls at the origination stage to prevent successful call routing to the called subscriber.
The Nigerian telecoms industry is home to a vibrant ecosystem of voice and data service with 193,186,325 active phone lines representing 101.20% teledensity; 140,412,649 internet users and 76,314,183 broadband connections representing 39.98% penetration nationwide as of November 2021, according to official data by NCC. MNOs accounted for 99.75% of the telecoms market share in Nigeria leaving 0.01% for fixed wired, and 0.24% for VOIP services within the same period.
On the other hand, ADAPTI is aimed at bridging the digital gaps that exist in academia by promoting the practical application of technology in research, teaching, and learning in tertiary institutions, Pantami says.
The 6,000 digital tablets to be distributed will encourage the appreciation and use of ICT in the country, particularly in tertiary institutions, and provide access to ICT tools.
The programme will also promote economic empowerment through self-development and stimulating demand for products and services in the telecommunication sector, according to Pantami who says that ADAPTI aligns with a number of pillars of NDEPS 2020-2030, including the pillars on Digital literacy and Skills, Solid Infrastructure, Digital Services Development and Promotion, Digital Society and Emerging Technologies and Indigenous Content Development and Adoption.