Cybercrime Act Allows Lawful Interception of Phone Conversations- Pantami
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, has disclosed that the 2015 Cybercrime Act allows lawful interception of phone conversations as the telecommunications sector prioritises security over economic benefits.
The Minister made the disclosure in Abuja during the official launch of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) 2021-2026, podcast and a compendium of Executive Vice-Chairman’s (EVC’s) speeches.
He said although phone conversation is constitutionally confidential, the 2015 Cybercrime Act and a subsidiary legislation of the NCC give the government the power of interception.
“Constitutionally, your phone conversation should be confidential. Look at the Constitution of Nigeria (Section 37) and 39 and see clearly that it is only the Cybercrime Act 2015 and a subsidiary legislation of the commission that allows the government that when a crime is committed, there is what is called lawful interception.
“When something happens and phone number is involved, your own function is to transmit that number to security institutions like the police and DSS. You go to them that your brother has been kidnapped and this is the number they used in contacting us.
“The police or DSS knows the procedure and they will communicate the NCC or telecom providers for biodata.”
A professor of Cybersecurity, Pantami said that the telecoms sector does not joke with security, adding that while aiding the security institutions, the sector even compromises the economic benefits that should have accrued to it.
He said: “We have even been compromising the economic progress of our sector because of our aim in supporting security institutions. At any point in time in the telecommunications sector, our position is that security takes precedence over economic benefits. Security is our priority followed by economic benefits. But if two things can be pursued; this one is our priority.”
In his remarks, the Executive Vice-Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, noted that the Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) is a combination of all existing developmental documents.
Danbatta said: “We have taken cognisance of the several notable advancements in the Nigerian telecommunications industry within the last five years, as well as the current global realities such as International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Strategic Plan (2020-2023), the Commission’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030 for a digital Nigeria, the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the federal government.
“Thus, the new plan has been guided by and aligned to the NNBP (2020-2025), the NDEPS (2020-2030), the SMP (2020-2024), the ITU Strategic Plan and the ERGP of the federal government.”
According to him, the new SVP 2021-2025 has five items, listing them as Organisational Renewal for Operational Efficiency and Regulatory Excellence; Facilitating the Provision of Infrastructure for a Digital Economy which fosters national development.
Others are Promoting Fair Competition, Inclusive Growth, Increased investment and Innovative Services; Improve Quality of Service (QoS) for Enhanced Consumer Quality of Experience (QoE); and Facilitating Strategic Collaboration and Partnership.
To ensure strong commitment to its implementation, the new SVP, he added, also has inbuilt initiatives, key performance indicators developed from inception and activities tied to an implementation responsibility matrix.
It also incorporates timelines and a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism, and is equally outcome-based and e-commendation-driven with follow-up actions to guide the NCC in operationalising the plan and assessing its performance over time.
“The new SVP, no doubt, embodies several innovative elements deliberately designed to re-invent and transform the telecom ecosystem within the context of regulation.
“This takes me to the next innovative project, the Compendium of EVC’s Speeches and presentations,” Dambatta said.
He noted that as the chief regulator of the telecoms sector, he had the opportunity to deliver several speeches and make presentations both locally and internationally.
He added that in order to preserve these speeches for historical reference, “we have carefully selected some of the speeches which capture the successes and challenges of the Nigerian communications sector from my perspective”.
The EVC observed that the book titled “Catalysing Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Transformation through Broadband Infrastructure” is sure to give readers the historical background and authoritative context to the growth that is now being enjoyed by the industry.
The House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Communications, Hon. Hakeen Adeyemi, while congratulating the EVC, noted that the communications sector has become the major contributor to the nation’s gross domestic product (GPD).
He said NCC must continue to carry out SIM audit and establish more emergency communication centres across the country to boost security, quality of service, and reduce the cost of data.
The book reviewer, Prof. Chidi Akujor, noted that the book has 531 pages, including 27 preliminary pages, eight sections with each section corresponding with the eight-point agenda of the Commission.
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