About six telecommunications operators may lose their operational licences for their involvement in call masking and refilling, despite repeated warning from the telecoms regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
NCC said it just concluded its investigation on call masking and refilling and discovered that six telecoms operators were involved in the illegal act that poses a national security risk and threat to the Nigerian economy, and described the act as an offence punishable by law.
In technical parlance, call masking and refilling is an attempt by callers to hide their true numbers when making calls, especially international calls which are not charged, because the caller's identity is completely hidden on the network.
NCC's investigation showed that the six operators were in connivance with international callers to operate masked calls in Nigeria.
The operators include: Medallion Communications, Interconnect Clearing House, Niconnx Communications Limited, Breeze Micro Limited, Solid Interconnectivity and Exchange Telecommunications Limited.
According to NCC, call masking and refilling pose a serious national security risk, since most people threaten the lives of innocent citizens through calls with masked telephones numbers that cannot be traced to them.
NCC also said most telephone numbers were masked just to defraud the economy.
The operators involved often alter local numbers to get international status in order to avoid been charged with the international rate for terminating such calls on international network, but the operators will charge the local caller with the international rate and pay at the local rate to the international network where the call was terminated.
Following the involvement of the six operators, NCC has written reminding them of the implications and the risk they face in losing their operational licences.
In one of the letters written by NCC to Medallion Communications, dated January 12, 2018, and jointly signed by the Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Yetunde Akinloye and Head, Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, Efosa Idehen, NCC said: "The Commission, pursuant of section 45 (1) and (3) of the NCC Act 2003, hereby gives notice of its intention to suspend the interconnect exchange licence granted to your company due to your involvement in call masking and refilling and your failure to rectify the breach, despite repeated interventions by the commission."
Part of the letter to Medallion read: The Commission has recently been inundated with complaints regarding the prevalence of cal, masking and refilling in the industry. Considering the economic and security implications of the development, the Commission, in 2017, wrote, directing relevant licences to ensure the cessation of call masking or refilling activities on their respective networks. The deadline for compliance with the directive was July 28, 2017. At a stakeholders meeting on August 3, 2017, it was resolved that a comprehensive investigation would be carried out by the Commission to determine the companies/licences involved in the illegal activity of call masking and refilling. At the meeting, licences were warned to desist from the practice, while it was also agreed that identified culprits would be sanctioned as part of measures to forestall the negative impact on national interest. Having carefully analysed all the relevant data collected in the course of investigation, the Commission has established a direct and indirect evidence against your company in the illegal and unwholesome activity of call masking and call refilling.
NCC has therefore asked the six telecoms operators to state reasons why the Commission should not suspend the said licence, and has equally asked the operators to send in their responses on or before January 31, 2018.