I see Nigeria as a very dangerous place ‘telecommunicationally’, permit me to coin the word for this discussion. The danger is that up till now, there are no rules, no restrictions, no regulations, or perhaps there are, which are not implemented – all as related to various telecommunication aspects which I’ll try to discuss in the next couple of posts. Comparing Nigeria to a couple of countries East and West would only cause hypertension as we ask ourselves ‘when are we going to get there’, or rather ‘would we ever get there?’.
We have the NCC and up till now, nothing is being done about the poor services provided to Nigeria’s residents as far as GSM is concerned. The NCC talks too much with no action; we can only imagine how much was used to buy them over. It’s not a strange sight to see someone with about 2-3 mobile phones, each on a different network / GSM operator. I myself have more than one. A foreigner friend who has three-lines once expressed his frustration by asking me ‘why do you guys license so many operators when they cannot connect to each other’? The lingo ‘poor reception’, ‘no signal’, ‘your voice is breaking’, ‘speak louder’ etc., are facts of everyday life and yet we are paying for services we are not receiving.
I once met a fellow who had 6-mobile phones / networks, commonly called ‘lines’. I asked why he had so many, and he replied ‘just in case one fails to work, I’ll try from another line, and another until I can get through’. Phone-calling in Nigeria has become a matter of trial and error. Try and retry, if it doesn’t go, try again and again. Are we ever going to get it right one day? Its only in Nigeria where you see a person dial a number on a phone, and while awaiting for it to ring at the other end, unconsciously whispers a word of prayer to God ‘Lord please let the call go through’, and when it does ring, again unconsciously thanking God for His wonderful works. What exactly does God have to do with a phone call ringing on the other end, if the telecom network is what its supposed to be. Man is endowed with intelligence and a creative mind to do good things beneficial for himself and his environment? No, maybe that’s not for Nigeria.
Phone Number registration:
Why is it that up till now in Nigeria, there is no standard telephone directory whether online of offline? Is it not appropriate and ideal to have telephone owners register their names and numbers, at least some bad eggs in the society can be fished out?
- How many maximum telephone numbers can a Nigerian resident own? A Sim card costs about just a bottle of Guiness Malt, or a daily newspaper. Purposefully dubious fellows can even afford buying one Sim Card per day to propagate their endeavours. Much more, if they disguise as retailers and buy Sim Cards in bulk, they’ll get a huge discount in the process. And how do you differentiate genuine retailers and fake ones?
- What is true for all Nigerians is true for foreigners. They come into Nigeria in daily droves and as soon as they acquire mobile phones and Sim cards, they are welcome home. Worse, if they are black like me, they become officially lost in Nigeria. Once he/she learns a little pidgeon English, we might as well assume they are all from Liberia. They can go anywhere, make local and international calls and no security agency in Nigeria can trace such a phone call to the JJC that just flew in hours ago.
Emergency / Terrorism:
Sept 11, 2001 has become a must read part of American history books. I pray such will never happen here. Who are we going to call for help when there is ‘no telephone signal’ at the scene of the disaster? Considering there are no towers to destroy, these mass killers could have a field day at over crowded market areas, pentecostal churches and mass gatherings, bumper to bumper traffic etc. Its frightening to think of the words ‘emergency rescue teams’ for such occasions, when the emergency rescue teams we have now have no water for their fire-trucks in cases of fire outbreaks in small neighbourhoods. How much more, for national disasters? How would hospitals that lack beds and electricity on normal working days have such resources on abnormal working days? God forbid. If such disasters could happen in countries we are looking up to, how much more are the potentials here?
Theres so much talk about the organization and reorganization of terrorist cells in countries around the world. Are there any intelligence reports about Nigeria? Are we sure they haven’t slipped into the country unawares? Who is gathering the intelligence, and how is it gathered? Which phone numbers would be tapped into? Can phone numbers be even tapped into when operators cannot connect one to another? Our police have become 20-Naira road warriors, so they do not have time for intelligence gathering. They don’t even know what it means.
While our hands are full with kidnap for ransom cases in Delta state, daylight bank robbery everywhere, hired killers and missing people, pick pocketers are still stealing mobile phones and using them(phone and Sim) after the theft. The original owner cannot reclaim his property from the operator as there was/is no record/receipt of payment when he/she bought it(Sim Cards). Sim cards are too cheap to have purchase receipts, so if it gets lost / stolen, buy another one.
Sometime ago after my phone got lost, I went to a customer care shop of the operator to retrieve the number. The lady asked me for my number and I told her the digits. Checking on her computer screen, she noted that I had recharged the Sim with credit the previous day when it got lost. I confirmed, nodding my head joyfully. She gave me the bomb when she demanded to see the most recent recharge-card I used, that it was the only proof I can use to retrieve my number. I was stunned, informed her I have been using the number for over 2-years etc, and that I have torn and disposed of my latest recharge card after my phone was credited. I presented my ID card, told her some phone-numbers for calls made and received on my number a day and two before I recharged the Sim card with credit, and its eventual loss – if at least those would be enough proof the number was mine. She was as adamant as a stone even after presenting my case for about 30-minutes. I had to leave the shop when she started talking as if I wanted to claim something that wasn’t mine.
I called my number from another persons phone a day later, and tried to ask for the goodwill of the person who picked up the call if he could return my Sim to me. Well, the guy on the other line informed me it was now his property and that if I needed it, I should bring NGN10,000.00(ten thousand Naira) to somewhere in Ikeja. How could I start tracing where I don’t know in Ikeja and fall from frying pan into the fire?, and even if I did, should I use NGN10,000 to buy back something of NGN150.00? Would any policeman listen to me if I wanted to make a case?
or should I start keeping used recharge cards just in case my phone gets lost again? Who made the policy and when will it change to something else?
Complete anonymity and Operator responsibility:
can any phone call be traced in Nigeria? Presently No.
Sometime 2006, I was informed by a reliable source that telephone call capture equipments of operators like Globacom was far more sophisticated that those of the Nigerian Telecommunications Company (NITEL), that the NITEL has been at a constant loss of monthly revenue, as they don’t have information to support a financial claim to the total number of incoming calls into / through their own network from Glo’s. Suppose the NITEL have upgraded since then, I would like to ask what the present situation report is with other operators.
I was once amused when a person I was having lunch with at a fast-food restaurant told me his phone was a liar. He received a phone-call and told the person he was in Abuja for a meeting, and would be there for a week, meanwhile he(we) were in Lagos state.
can I as an ordinary Nigerian citizen(politicians are not ordinary in this part of the world) request from a GSM operator to furnish me with details of a call incoming /outgoing my phone number if I feel threatened or in need of such information?
Could such a request be made granted ‘without much ado’?
Can such a request be made and granted over a phone-call session to the GSM operator customer-care / support team once they confirm my identity? And how would they confirm my identity when my number isn’t registered with them?
Much talk about requesting for phone call details. Are incoming and outgoing phone calls even recorded? Are there any audio log files? text message logs? How much in hours, days, weeks / months data is kept and available?
If such information are available somewhere, why can it be used to trace the whereabouts of armed robbers, missing people, wanted people, thieves on the run? I’ve never read in any Nigerian Newspaper where such information has been used / referenced as part of helpful Police Intelligence in resolving police cases.
Scammers, 419ners turned telephone sales agents:
The game has changed from emails that have only email and postal addresses as ‘reply-to’ contact details for scammers. Now, phone numbers, especially GSM, because they are mobile, are provided in the never ending scam emails. Some might even provide alternate numbers just in case you can’t get through on one.
Perhaps, out of frustration and out of fear of authorities, example: the EFCC, and the fact that cybercafé owners are also on the prowl, telephone scammers now make the first phone-call, start discussing the business proposal as if they knew you all along and ask you to call back if interested. Others have taken to the dividends of text messaging. From using free online text-messaging tools, to buying bulk SMS-products, I wonder if the service providers care to find out the business inclination of their potential clients before bringing such on as clients.
From fake bank promos, InterSwitch technical support, lottery wins notifications etc., scammers are telephone enabled in Nigeria and completely invisible. Presently, they cannot be traced, and until you hear the familiar voice of your caller, never believe who is calling. If for example, the NITEL cannot retrieve accurate billing information necessary for account reconciliation with other operators, how can they provide recorded telephone calls / text-message logs? Worse, and in an environment where information about phone-calls are not available, cannot be retrieved, won’t these time wasters just continue to count their blessings. If the reverse is true and available, won’t these scammers find some genuine and useful exercise for their intellects?
- Is there any part of the Nigerian constitution, Telecommunication Act /Laws of Nigeria, any Policy or any other National declaration where aiding, abetting or withholding of useful information necessary for the well-being of a Nigerian citizen is a crime?
- Do our GSM companies promote and ensure useful applications of their products and services? Are they not more concerned with monthly revenues in terms of Sim card / recharge card sales than in ensuring these products are not misused?
- What if GSM products are used to commit crime, defraud, gain illegal access to private information etc? can operators / should operators be held liable. Are there any consequences for a wrongful use / application of their products?
- Do GSM operators in Nigeria have implemented policies, terms and conditions etc? What are these policies, terms and conditions etc? Where are they? Are there any compliance watchdogs? Where are they and what is their job description?
There are so many questions to ask, but really, are phone-call information stored and can such be made available especially in matters of personal security. If yes, why can’t a phone number be requested to be blocked if enough evidence is provided that such is used for fraudulent purposes? Which agency, department, committee or working group caters to these things?
Have you tried calling the numbers and playing along? I have, several times when I get pissed and just want to shout back in anger. Unfortunately, I end up laughing. Many times, I’m surprised to hear relaxed voices, male and female, all with original American accents, and with a quiet background. At the back of my mind, I’m wondering if they are at home, in their offices or somewhere, just sitting and awaiting phone calls.
I’m also wondering if there is an organization providing English speech training to these new crop of dubious Nigerians, because all of them know how to pronounce ‘r’ and ‘h’ very well. It would be very hard to identify if they are Yoruba’s, Ibos, Hausa or Calabar as their diction is clean, sounding as if they were customer service personnel before. Or perhaps they were? Or perhaps the Nigerian police should investigate speech training outfits around town and see who has been / is enrolled for such courses.
The above are some issues, amongst many that should be looked into by the stake holders of Nigerias GSM networks, operators, supervisors etc.
Have your say and watch out for Part-2.