The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, justified its actions for shutting down the controversial for fund raising.
According to the regulatory body, the activity of the mobile network operators in running a political advertisement for the APC was not in compliance with the provisions of the NCC guidelines on the use of short codes in Nigeria.
Tony Ojobo, the Director of Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, made the clarification at a press conference held at the NCC headquarters in Abuja.
In his address, Ojobo said the Commission did not err at all in shutting down the SMS platform, given that the mobile network operator in question ran foul NCC's guidelines, by not officially applying to the Commission for approval in accordance with section 3 of the NCC's Act.
According to him, part of the section reads: '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.'
In addition, the Commission has threatened to santion any service provider involved in the saga for their failure to comply with the NCC's guidelines once the investigations are concluded.
Buttressing the NCC's stand with evidence, Ojobo 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," Ojobo said. "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."
He also said investigations from the NCC showed that mobile network operators where offering subscribers the chance to vote for political parties at the upcoming February 2015 general elections.
"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”, he revealed
Ojobo further explained that this was against the policy of the commission as it would require the telcos to notify them a week before publishing those types of advertisement.
He also stated that providers can only use short codes for only the purpose it was allocated for
"Once short codes have been formally allocated to 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 conclusion, he declared the recent developments as a breach of the commission’s guidelines; "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.