By Oluwatobi Opusunju and Chinedu James
More numbers may be unplugged from the national network as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) continues its audit of telecom networks to eliminate call masking and refilling, IT Edge News has learnt. An insider said close to the numbers already unplugged may further be removed by the telecoms regulator.
The commission axed some operators more than a week ago and barred about 750,000 numbers in a cleanup move against what it termed unwholesome practices.
Call masking and refilling are carried out by operators to hide the actual telephone numbers of callers when routing calls, especially international calls. When a call is masked the caller identity is hidden and a call is refilled, it means it is passed off as a domestic call even though it is an international call. What this means is that international calls are passed off as domestic calls and so domestic rates are applied to effectively undermine the country’s charge and tax procedures.
Some knowledgeable people in the industry say over 20% of international calls are refilled in a way that criminally reduces operators’ payments obligations. But what is worrisome to some experts are the security implications. Callers’ identities are masked and provide anonymous cover for criminals.
Six telecoms operators were identified by the NCC as culprits. They include Niconnx Communication Limited, Breeze Micro Limited; Solid Interconnectivity and Exchange Telecommunications Limited, Medallion Communications Limited; Interconnect Cleaning House Nigeria Limited. All operators denied the charges and have asked for wider investigations.
But an unrelenting NCC applied the big stick late February with various level of sanctions and warned that it would apply greater penalty in the future.
“The commission is pleased to note that the incidence of call masking has significantly reduced since it commenced a multi-faceted approach to address the menace.
“The commission hereby informs all stakeholders that the actions so far taken are just the first stage of the exercise. The second stage, which has now commenced, will focus on the Mobile Network Operators and other persons involved in SIM boxing.
“The aim of the commission is to completely stamp out the fraudulent practice in the overall interest of all Nigerians. Accordingly, every service provider that has been sanctioned still has an opportunity to correct the identified anomalies and satisfy the commission that it should be allowed to continue to operate in Nigeria,” said NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo in an official statement to announce the sanctions.