By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, yesterday, justified its action for shutting down the controversial All Progressive Congress, APC SMS platform for fund raising, saying that the action of the mobile network operators in running a political advertisement for the APC wasn’t in compliance with the provisions of the NCC guidelines on the use of shot Codes in Nigeria.
The Director Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, Mr. Tony Ojobo, made the clarification at a press conference held at the NCC headquarters in Abuja.
Ojobo said, the Commission did not erred at all in shutting down the SMS platform, given that the mobile network operator in question ran foul of section 3 of NCC’s guidelines, by not applying officially to the Commission for approval in accordance with section 3 of the NCC’s Act.
According to him, the section reads in parts: ‘‘the Commission shall receive written notification from the licensees for all advertisements for goods and services within a minimum of seven days of the proposed or planned publication of an advertisement, in order to ensure such advertisements meet the minimum standards and requires.’’
Meanwhile, the Commission has threatened to sanction any service provider involved in the saga for their failure to comply with the Commission’s guidelines once the investigations are concluded.
Mr. Ojobo, who buttressed the NCC’s stands with evidence, wondered why the Lagos state Governor, Babatunde Fashola and his party would accuse the Commission of being partisan in the matter, even when the Governor passed through the same process before his re-election in 2011.
‘‘In 2010, the Commission based on applications received across party lines had granted Codes for use by political parties to raise funds as well create awareness.
‘‘We feel a need to clarify certain issues circulating in the press especially in the light of inquiries we have been receiving in the last few days. Prior to Monday, 19th, January, 2015, the Commission was inundated with complaints from several subscribers to the effect that they were receiving messages from network Operators to vote one political party or the other.
‘‘Our investigations revealed that subscribers in either checking their call balance or receiving end of call notification/alert got messages asking them to vote for one party or the other. Mobile network operators within the industry in Nigeria have various forms of engagements with the subscribers.
‘‘For mobile network operators to use these platforms to place adverts to their teeming subscribers, the NCC guidelines on adverts and promos require them to notify the Commission seven days prior to such advertisement,’’ he explained.
‘‘Once a short codes have been formally allocated to an a service provider, such provider must use the short code solely for the purpose intended, and should ensure that its operations are in compliance with the provisions of the NCC guidelines on the use of Short Codes in Nigeria.
‘‘in effect, the solicitation to the subscribers to vote one party or the other after end of all notification or balance inquiry amounts to an advert of which the network operators are obliged to notify the Commission based on the above provisions, which they did not do and this is a breach of the guidelines,’’ he explained.
Ojobo insisted that the Nigerian Communications Commission is a responsible and independent regulatory agency and that its independence has never been in doubt, pointing out that the sector had witnessed tremendous growth and investment, making it one of the fastest markets in the world.