Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission, has placed global losses in telecom due to call masking at $60 billion annually even as the regulator has come hard on perpetrators of the illicit act.
Danbatta said this in Abuja at the 86th edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament with the theme: “Overcoming Challenges of Call Masking/Refilling: Task Ahead for the Telecom Industry”.
Call masking is the act of concealing international calls coming into a country and presenting such calls as local in order to make profits from the difference in prices between local and international calls. It is illegal but it has continued to thrive globally.
Danbatta, who was represented at the TCP by Mr. Sunday Dare, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, said that between $54 billion and $60 billion was lost to call masking.
He added that the commission was taking proactive measures to curb the menace “even though we don’t have the exact amount lost in Nigeria”.
“This is a global menace which is not specific to Nigeria and it is possible because of innovative technology that is available.
“We are talking about the VOIP which is Voice Over Internet Protocol, we are talking about the OTT, Over The Top, platforms where you do WhatsApp and all other video calls, thanks to innovative technology.”
He said that innovations were responsible for some of these to take place.
“But we are happy to say that in the last eight months, the NCC took very proactive measures, through investigations.
“I think the most critical point is; we have tried to look for a technological solution to solve what is a slight technical problem.
“As I speak now, we have found a solution.”
He explained that the solution was tried in Lagos “and about nine people were arrested in the basement of a house and in a few cars”.
He said: “We tried that concept, it is working and we hope to launch it in January.
“When launched, I can assure Nigerians that before the end of 2019, we would have had 80 per cent reduction in call masking.”
He called on the public to report cases of call masking to NCC for appropriate measures.
He added that arrests had been made using tracker and the culprits would be prosecuted and the offence treated as criminal offence.
Earlier in an address of welcome, Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, the Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, said that the forum allowed for interactions with the public and stakeholders in the telecom industry.
She explained that the theme of the TCP was to promote national security and a level playing ground for telecom licensees.