US regulators have approved a record $5bn (£4bn) fine on Facebook to settle an investigation into data privacy violations, reports in US media say.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating allegations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained the data of up to 87 million Facebook users.
The settlement was approved by the FTC in a 3-2 vote, sources told US media.
Facebook and the FTC told the BBC they had no comment on the reports.
The consumer protection agency the FTC began investigating Facebook in March 2018 following reports that Cambridge Analytica had accessed the data of tens of millions of its users.
The investigation focused on whether Facebook had violated a 2011 agreement under which it was required to clearly notify users and gain “express consent” to share their data.
The $5bn fine was approved by the FTC in a 3-2 vote which broke along party lines, with Republican commissioners in favour and Democrats opposed.
The New York Times reported that the Democrats wanted stricter limits on the firm, while other Democrats have criticised the fine as inadequate.
“With the FTC either unable or unwilling to put in place reasonable guardrails to ensure that user privacy and data are protected, it’s time for Congress to act,” US Senator Mark Warner said.
The fine still needs to be finalised by the Justice Department’s civil division, and it is unclear how long this may take, the sources said.
If confirmed, it would be the largest fine ever levied by the FTC on a tech company.
However, the amount falls in line with estimates by Facebook, which earlier this year said it was expecting a fine of up to $5bn.
Investors responded positively to the news, pushing Facebook shares up 1.8%.
Multiple taxation: X-raying call for executive order
Stakeholders in telecommunications recently called for Executive Order as the only solution to the perennial issue of multiple taxation in the sector. Will government toe this line as it did on the issue of local content in ICT? Will this really be efficient enough to put an end to this problem? SAMSON AKINTARO asks
After years of appeals and interventions, stakeholders in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector are demanding a pragmatic action from the Federal Government to address the issue of multiple taxation. This, they want in form of an Executive Order (EO) compelling state governments and their various agencies to desist from imposing arbitrary taxes on telecoms facilities across the country.
Before now, there had also been repeated calls for declaration of telecoms infrastructure as Criticality National Infrastructure, to prevent shutting down and destruction of telecoms infrastructure over tax matters. However, while a bill to that effect has suffered undue delay at the National Assembly, players believe a faster approach is needed in form of EO.
An Executive Order is a directive from the President, which are gazetted and made enforceable with the force of law. It is seen as a quick and fast way of addressing national issues as opposed to legislation, which goes through long process.
Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari, signed some EOs relating to ease of doing business in the country and local content. Specifically, EO 005 addresses the concerns of stakeholders in the ICT industry regarding the problem of local content. While implementation is still on, nothing seems to have changed in terms of local content in the ICT industry one year after the order. However, analysts believe the country is making gradual progress in the area of IT procurement.
While the issue of multiple taxation is as old as the telecom sector itself, players have for years appealed to the states and local government authorities in the country to consider the importance of telecoms to the economy and desist from arbitrary taxes impositions. Several times, the telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have had to intervene in cases between state governments and the licensed operators over issue of taxes, which often leads to shutting down of base stations.
To have a better grasp of the situation, the regulator in 2012 established what it called Industry Working Group (IWG) on multiple taxation. The duties of the IWG varies from reviewing recent cases of multiple taxations suffered by the operators within the telecoms industry, to liaising with the federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Joint Tax Board (JTB) to ensure a fair and equitable tax/levies for operator within the industry and where necessary, a tax review of the taxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) act of 1998.
However, years of engagements and interventions by the Group under the supervision of NCC have failed to produce desired results. Indeed, the number of taxes and arbitrary shutting down of base stations continues unabated, even until now.
EO as solution
For industry stakeholders who gathered at the maiden edition of Nigeria Telecoms Leadership Summit recently organised by NCC in Lagos, the only solution to the problem of multiple taxation in the sector would be an Executive Order by the Federal Government. A former Minister of Communication in the country, Dr Omobola Johnson, who spearheaded the call, said years of talking have not changed the multiple taxation situation in the telecoms sector, but rather, it is getting worse. Johnson, who as a Minister, had to visit all the state governments to make them realise why they need to soft pedal on their penchant for taxing telecom infrastructure arbitrarily, said she was surprised that four years after she left office, nothing has changed. “I left office in 2015 and today, we are still talking about multiple taxation, which they had been talking about 10 years before I became Minister. Before I left office, we engaged with all the state governors, we met them one by one to let them realise the importance of telecommunications to the economy and why the sector should not be killed with taxes. We got their promises, but today the situation is getting worse. It shows that negotiations have failed. The only solution right now is for the Presidency to issue an Executive Order against multiple taxation in the sector,” she said.
Increase in taxes
Corroborating the former Minister, the Chairman Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, said it has become clear that interventions by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and negotiations with the state governors are not the solution to the problem of multiple taxation facing the sector. Adebayo disclosed that as at the last count, the number of taxes to be paid by telecom operators had risen to 39. “We have been talking for years and we are still talking but the talks are not taking us anywhere. The taxes are increasing and most of it has nothing to do with telecoms but because the state governments see telecoms as cash cow, they all want to milk it. We are saying enough is enough, we need an Executive Order, not interventions or negotiations because they have not worked,” he said.
He noted that the tax situation is sending bad signals to investors who are considering coming into the country. “Investors are watching and the signal we are sending to them with the issue of multiple taxation and multiple regulation is discouraging the. We have been doing same thing same way over the years and we have been getting same result. It is time we changed approach,” he said.
A peep at EO5
In recognition of the role of science, technology and innovation in national economic development and to increase the quantum of value created in the Nigeria economy via Nigerian content in public procurement, President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order No.5 (EO5) to provide a platform to harness Science, Technology and Innovation. EO5 aims to promote the “Made in Nigeria Campaign”, drive national competitiveness, productivity and economic activities across sectors. The thrust of EO5 is that Nigerian businesses shall have preference in the award of contracts in respect of Science, Engineering and Technology projects in line with the Procurement Act 2007. Consideration shall only be given to foreign companies where the requisite local expertise is lacking, provided that such foreign companies have demonstrable and verifiable plans for indigenous capacity development prior to the award of such contracts.
EO5 also mandates the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) to develop, maintain and regularly update a Database of Nigerians with expertise in science, engineering, technology and other fields of expertise while the Ministry of Interior shall take into consideration the NOTAP Data Base together with data from the Nigerian Academy of Engineering; Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board; Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and other relevant Ministries; in determining the availability of local skilled manpower in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) when considering applications for the grant of Expatriate Quota. The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Ministry of Finance shall ensure that tax incentives are granted to existing machine tools companies (including foundry, machine shop, forge shop, and indigenous artisans) to boost local production of these products. The FIRS is also encouraged to provide tax incentives to Small & Medium Enterprises and foreign firms who use local raw materials that are authenticated by the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).
However, the immediate past Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, had expressed concerns over the situation of things in terms of local content in the ICT industry despite the existence of the EO5. According to him, to fully enforce and implement Executive Order on local content in information technology, the National Assembly needs to enact a holistic law to criminalize breach of the policy. Shittu noted that major challenges to growing Nigerian IT sector has largely been apathy over the consumption of local products and services.
“Local content must be elevated to such a level as to save our economy,” he said. “What more can be economic sabotage if actions that cause massive loss of jobs and foreign exchange are not redressed?” Noting that local content does not mean excluding foreign participation in the Nigerian economy, the Minister assured that National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was committed to the implementation of the local content program and the executive order on local content. Some stakeholders in the industry also believe that current executive orders are not strong enough to address the problems they are meant to solve, noting that an outright law would still be needed.
While it is unclear if government is thinking in the direction of issuing Executive Order for the multiple taxation challenge, it is expedient for the National Assembly to pass the Critical National Infrastructure bill into law. With this, telecoms facilities will not be shut down unnecessarily and perhaps, at that time, the revenue-hungry states’ agencies would be able to go the way of peaceful resolution of tax matters.
Tech Giant, Transsion holdings launches Scooper – premium news app
Premium news and fun content app, Scooper, is now official in Nigeria with the promise to deliver ‘More Than Just News’ to all active users. Scooper is a ‘fast and reliable’ news App that aggregates local and global content across several categories of interest.
With Scooper, users can enjoy special daily benefits for staying on the app. Users can earn virtual money and redeem cash (600NGN – 5,000NGN) among other prizes from the app’s Prize Centre.
Scooper’s outstanding features include the following;
Personalized News Feed: The ‘For You’ tab provides with content that is in line with news categories that users read regularly.
Reply Function: Users can interact with other users in the comment section and get notified when any user responds to comment.
Virtual Money: By reading frequently and inviting new users using unique referral link, active users can gather coins. These virtual money is redeemable at the Prize Centre – a depot of several gift items.
Novels: Users can access a stack of novels; variety of science fiction, romance, mystery, thrillers and short stories.
Live Commentary: For select football matches, there’s a real time commentary which feels surreal.
Free Football Betting Tips: Scooper provides free football betting tips that punters can count on.
Multi-language: Scooper supports multi-language including Arabic and French
Buzz QA: This is a Q & A section around virtually every question
Speed of Update: News stories are refreshed in seconds
Andela Secures $100M Series D to Build Engineering Teams
Andela, the company building distributed engineering teams with Africa’s top software developers, today announced the completion of a $100M Series D funding.
The round was led by Generation Investment Management with participation from existing investors including Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, Spark Capital, and CRE Venture Capital. The most recent financing brings Andela’s total venture funding to $180M.
Andela was founded in 2014 to connect Africa’s engineering talent with the demand for software developers worldwide. In four years, Andela has assessed more than one hundred thousand applicants, hired one thousand software developers, and integrated them into hundreds of companies, such as Safaricom, Percolate, and InVision.
With the Series D funding, Andela will accelerate the development of its technology platform to identify, develop and match talent at scale. By doing so, Andela will provide its customers with the data they need to understand developer performance and better manage distributed teams. The company will also expand its presence across Africa to meet the global demand for high-quality engineering talent.
“It’s increasingly clear that the future of work will be distributed, in part due to the severe shortage of engineering talent,” says Jeremy Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Andela. “Given our access to incredible talent across Africa, as well as what we’ve learned from scaling hundreds of engineering teams around the world, Andela is able to provide the talent and the technology to power high-performing teams and help companies adopt the distributed model faster.”
“Andela has been a critical player in Nigeria’s technology revolution,” says Omowale David-Ashiru, Country Director at Andela. “Due to our unwavering commitment to our mission throughout the last four years, Andela has grown into a thriving platform for hundreds of technologists in Nigeria. With this investment, Andela will accelerate the development of Africa’s best tech talent in Nigeria and beyond.”
“Generation’s investment in Andela resulted from our deep research into the future of work. We believe Andela is a transformational model to develop software engineers and deploy them at scale into the future enterprise,” says Lilly Wollman, Co-Head of Growth Equity at Generation Investment Management. “The global demand for software engineers far exceeds supply, and that gap is projected to widen. Andela’s leading technology enables firms to effectively build and manage distributed engineering teams. We are great admirers of the outstanding team, mission and culture Andela has built across two continents and five countries.”
With tech campuses in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, Andela has been recognized as “The Best Place to Work in Africa.” In 2018, The Wall Street Journal named Andela as one of the twenty-five technology company to watch, and the year prior, Fast Company ranked Andela as the most innovative company in Africa. In 2019, Andela is projected to double in size, hiring another one thousand software developers and investing heavily in data, engineering, and product development.
NCC faults Falana’s claim of annual N600bn revenue loss
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has faulted the claim by Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, (SAN) that the country was losing about N600 billion from the telecommunications industry.
The NCC, through its Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, Sunday Dare, faulted Falana’s claim in a statement in Lagos on Monday.
Dare gave assurance to stakeholders in the telecommunications industry that the NCC was committed to due process and high integrity in its regulatory roles.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Falana said the loss was due to the failure of the commission to issue “contract award letter’’ to a firm that allegedly won the contract for the implementation of ”Revenue Assurance Software”.
Falana, in a publication titled: ”How NCC is making Nigeria Lose N600bn Revenue Every Year”, threatened to sue the commission within two weeks, if it failed to issue the letter.
“Our attention has been drawn to sponsored reports alleging that the Federal Government of Nigeria is losing up to N600 billion yearly.
“Ostensibly because of the alleged failure of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to issue a ”contract award letter” to a firm which supposedly won a contract to implement a Revenue Assurance Software.
“Ideally, the commission would not join issues in the media on what is essentially an ongoing procurement exercise of a very sensitive nature.
“We are however obliged to make this clarification, so as to set the records straight, and to reassure stakeholders of the commission’s commitment to due process.
“As well as the integrity of its regulatory and other processes which were unfairly called into question by the said media publication.
“For the records, there is no iota of truth whatsoever in the allegation of revenue losses to the tune of N600 billion from the telecommunications industry,’’ Dare said.
He said that the industry currently contributed a significant portion to the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and government revenues.
According to him, NCC’s initiative of implementing a Revenue Assurance System was motivated by its firm belief that the industry has the potential to generate more revenue for government.
The executive commissioner said that the commission had deployed remarkably stringent processes with which it monitored the industry and collected all revenues.
“We considered it necessary to enhance the effectiveness of these processes by proactively blocking any potential gaps, through the use of available and proven cutting-edge technology solutions.
“The Revenue Assurance System is therefore to provide an additional layer of assurance that our licensees continue to meet their obligations without fail.
“The wildly exaggerated loss of N600 billion annually to non-implementation of a particular system by a particular vendor as alleged in the said publications is therefore simply not true.
“The proposed figure is the projected revenue that consultants claim can be gotten. Until a Proof of Concept (POC) is done, this figure is in the realm of imagination,” Dare said.
The commissioner said that having made the decision to implement a Revenue Assurance System, NCC had been painstakingly following all mandated due process in its procurement.
He said that the due process included engagement with the Bureau of Public Process, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
“We hope that this clarification further assures our esteemed stakeholders, who were justifiably alarmed by the unfounded claims made in said publications,’’ Dare said. (NAN)
Active lines increase to 165m in October – NCC
Active telephone lines in Nigeria increased from 162,058,918 in September to 165,239,443 in October 2018, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.
The commission made this known in its Monthly Subscriber/Operator Data published on its website on Thursday.
The regulatory body said that the lines increased by 3,180,525 from the 162,058,918 recorded in September.
It said that of the 165,239,443 active numbers, the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) network recorded 164,865,417 in the month under review.
The GSM network had an increase of 3,179,670 customers as against 161,685,747 recorded in September.
According to NCC, Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators have 126,032 active subscribers in October, hence, having a decrease of 237 from the 126,269 customers in September.
It said that the Fixed Wireless Network retained the 26,865 subscribers it had in September.
NCC said that the Fixed Wired network had 108,997 active users in October, showing a decrease of 1,796 from the 110,793 subscribers recorded in September.
The telecommunications umpire said the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) operators had 112,132 active users in October.
It showed that there was an increase of 2,888 subscribers, compared with 109,244 users the VOIP service providers recorded in September.
It said that teledensity of the telecommunications industry in October was 118.03, giving an increase of 2.27 from the 115.76 recorded in September.
Teledensity is defined as the number of active telephone connections per one hundred (100) inhabitants living within an area.
The teledensity is calculated based on a national population of 140 million, according to the 2006 last Census Population figures.
Winners of first Google Impact Challenge Africa announced
Google tonight announced the winners of the first Google Impact Challenge in Nigeria at an event held in Lagos. Twelve non-profits and social enterprises were each awarded a share of $2m in grant funding.
Three out of four winners were chosen by the judges, they include – The Cece Yara Foundation, HelpMum, Project Enable Africa and the final winner chosen by the general public was Vetsark. All four winners will receive $250 000 each, while the eight runners up will each receive $125 000.
The funding will be allocated in tranches, to be assigned to each enterprise as they reach a set of predefined milestones specific to each venture. In addition to the funding, the winners and runners up also receive support from Google to reach their goals and meet those milestones.
Google Impact Challenge Africa, a competition to find the most innovative African non-profits and social enterprises using technology to solve societal problems, opened in May and more than 5,000 (Five thousand) entries were received in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
Judging to narrow down the 12 finalists was conducted by a team of Googlers and Google partners with expertise in the sector. Voting was then opened to the public from 8 to 26 November. On the night, each entrant pitched their enterprise to a judging panel, which voted on the winners. The results of the public vote determined the people’s choice winner.
Judges on the night included Chairman CEO Channels media group John Momoh, chairman/CEO; Mrs. Parminder Vir, Chief Executive Officer, Tony Elumelu Foundation; Rapper, CEO of Chocolate City Music Group, MI Abaga; Philanthropist and Executive Director of Nigeria Network of
NGOs Oluseyi Oyebisi; Managing General Partner, EchoVC Partners Eghosa Omoigui and Google Nigeria’s Country Director Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor.
Says Google Country Director in Nigeria; Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, “Many African innovators are doing great work with real impact and Google is keen to shine a light on their work, and also give a financial boost to their projects and ideas. We believe technology can help local and national organisations to better reach their goals and solve some of the continent’s most pressing challenges, and Google is eager to provide support to individuals and organisations using technology in new ways to make a positive difference.”
Below is more detailed information on the four winners and eight runners up:
1. Vetsark – It is planning to launch Alpha Prime Disease Surveillance Technology to predict, prevent, and control pests and disease outbreaks in Nigeria to protect crops and livestock.
2. The Cece Yara Foundation – It established the first toll-free child helpline and child advocacy centre in Nigeria and aims to connect victims with professional services through the web, SMS, and mobile apps.
3. HelpMum – Using mobile technology, HelpMum provides clean birth kits to ensure that pregnant women are given the best possible care during delivery, irrespective of where they live.
4. Project Enable Africa – This digital inclusion project promotes the access of people with disabilities and their caregivers to ICT skills and opportunities
Instagram ousting fake followers from accounts
Instagram on Monday said it is booting fake followers, likes, and comments generated by applications tailored to make accounts appear more popular than they actually are.
The crackdown comes as Instagram parent Facebook strives to assure people that the leading social network and its services can be trusted.
“Recently, we’ve seen accounts use third-party apps to artificially grow their audience,” Instagram said in a blog post.
“Starting today, we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity.”
Instagram is using self-improving software programs to help identify accounts that use such apps and purge products of inauthentic activity, which violates terms of service at the service.
Instagram said it would notify users about removed likes, follows, or comments.
People who unknowingly linked to an offending app need only change passwords to sever connections, according to the photo and video sharing social network.
Instagram users who continue to use such third-party apps possibly seeing their “experience impacted,” but the service did not specify in what ways.
The announcement comes amid growing concerns about Facebook’s efforts to curb misinformation and manipulation.
Facebook has faced renewed criticism following a New York Times investigation suggesting it ignored warnings about Russian influence campaigns on its platform and then used a consulting firm to discredit critics of the social network.
Twitter has made similar efforts to root out inauthentic accounts, resulting in declines in the number of followers for some users.
Budget phones at war: Can itel mobile weather the storm?
If you’ve recently shopped for an affordable smartphone, you will realize how less challenging that could be. The mobile market is fiercely competitive with the likes of Xiaomi, Gionee, TECNO, itel, Fero and others churning out every quarter top-of-the-line smartphones without the top-of-the-line prices, all in a bid to claim the top as the number 1 smartphone maker.
With OEMs saving consumers who don’t have the luxury of purchasing fancy phones by making more affordable phones without compromising on quality, consumers have been able to streamline their search to specific features which would deliver substantial value to them, like – does the smartphone have the best camera quality? Is the battery life strong to go days without charging? How vibrant is the display with color reproduction? How many gigabyte is the internal storage?
According to a research from Counterpoint’s Market search, global smartphone shipments declined 3% annually in Q1 2018 while brands like Nokia, itel, TECNO, Xiaomi led the charts in the fastest growing mobile phone category with the largest smartphone shipment and share.
For a smartphone brand like itel Mobile, this is tremendous growth and is also a commendable feat, coming from a brand that strategically penetrated the Nigerian smartphone market only a decade ago.
In the first quarter of 2018, itel stood at third position with 13% market share in the global feature phone market. That would be itel’s first time of topping the chart as one of the top 10 smartphones across the globe, as the smartphone shipments grew over 200% in Q1 2018. Fast forward to the end of Q3 2018, a recent August report from Euromonitor International, based on mobile phones in Nigeria has reflected that itel Mobile surpassed Samsung, Nokia and Huawei to hold the second position in retail volume with a market share of 25.8%, – a commendable feat to crown the brand’s efforts in becoming a top market leader in 2018.
The fact is itel Mobile steals the spotlight every time, especially when it comes to the budget department. The company does an exceptional job in making smartphones for everyone by putting out phones with good quality, reliability, trendiness and performance at an affordable price point.
Well, the success story didn’t happen overnight. itel Mobile came into the market with a mission to empower consumers with seamless communication with a mantra of providing smartphones for everyone. In 2016, itel sold a milestone of 50 million devices, to become the top mobile brand in Africa. Reports gathered revealed that in 2017, itel reached an exponential growth with sales volume reaching a landmark of 80 million devices, making it a well-known brand with a historical highest brand awareness of 83.3%.
The previous quarters between 2017 and 2018 was no difference. A plethora of flagship devices were released by the brand, each with the goal of standing out in providing mobile solutions to consumers – such as long-lasting battery life with itel P32, building a selfie-nation with more powerful megapixel with the itel S13 among a host of others.
It is strongly believed that the reason for itel’s success and dominance is their ability to understand the major needs of African consumers. They focus on delivering continued value to itel users and pioneer new technologies that offers newer mobile solutions to consumers and that why itel Mobile remains the most reliable budget smartphone brand in this battle, and will definitely weather the storm.
MTN/CBN Court Hearing Looms Near as Minister of Finance Regrets Sanctions Levelled Against the Telco
As the scheduled court hearing – October 30th – for the CBN/MTN issue draws near, investors and industry watchers remain on edge in anticipation of an amicable resolution to the case that has swept the media space in the last 2 months.
The Nigerian Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, has admitted in an interview that the series of sanctions levelled against ICT company, MTN Nigeria is currently maligning the country’s reputation in the international community. “The MTN incident was a very damaging one for us, that was one of the reasons why we have been out trying to engage investors”, she said at the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit Abuja on Tuesday, 23rd October 2018.
The telecom company and four banks (Standard Chartered Bank, Citi Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Diamond Bank) have been embroiled in a protracted back and forth, with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the office of the Attorney-General demanding over $10billion for alleged illegal repatriation of dividends as well as tax defaults.
The minister gave reasons for the sanctions, explaining that “there is a tendency for big business to take regulations and governments for granted.” She continued further in her explanation stating that “After that incident happened, all the information the CBN has been trying to get in two months actually came. Now, they have almost solved the problem.”
This news has caused a public outcry especially on social media where the news broke early Wednesday morning. Many users have perceived this as a half-hearted acceptance of error by the government. “Nigeria is considered a high-risk country especially after the MTN debacle, investors are not very keen on exposing their investments to state volatility”, @FakhuusHashim, an influential social media user stated emphatically.
Furthermore, the comments by the finance minister contradict the actions and statements of the CBN in the past. During a 2016 Senate investigation into alleged violations of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous) Act by MTN, the bank regulator, in sworn testimony said that the company was not in breach of any provision of the law with respect to the Certificates of Capital Importation, in effect, concurring with the company.
MTN Nigeria’s Public Relations Manager, Funso Aina, in a statement issued in August confirmed the company’s position, clearly stating that MTN has been cooperating with the government and all necessary information required had been provided by the telecommunications company and these have been exhaustively reviewed and cleared in 2016/2017.
In a following statement issued by the company in September, the company further stressed these points and its historic engagements with the Nigerian authorities.
“It is both regrettable and disconcerting that despite the historic engagements with the Nigerian authorities by MTN Nigeria, the Senate investigation into the CCI matter, and the multiple tax assessments done by the Nigerian tax authorities over many years that were satisfactorily concluded, that these matters are being reopened.”
Ahmed has allayed any fears by pointing out that this scenario will not be repeated with other organisations. “We are trying to make sure this doesn’t happen again, we are continuously discussing with monetary authorities. There will be no company next after MTN, nobody is next because we can’t afford for this kind of incidence to keep happening,” she added.
The pending civil cases will be heard on the 30th of October and 8th of November for the matter with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation respectively.
NITDA to Nigerians: Be watchful online
The government is taking awareness as a critical step in addressing the scourge of cybercrime in the country and preventing losses.
Disturbed by the increasing rate of frauds and attacks being perpetrated on the internet, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has warned Nigerians to be more sensitive and on the alert while using the internet. This warning, the agency said became imperative as there has been a tremendous increase in the number of incidences where Nigerians have lost money and data through vulnerabilities arising from lack of knowledge on how to manage their online presence and personal details.
According to a recent Cyber Security Report by Demadiur Systems, Nigeria lost not less than N234 billion ($649 million) to Cybercrime activities in 2017. The figure, however, represented a fraction of the total losses as most attacks were said not to have been officially reported. Analysis of the report shows that over 90 per cent of Nigerian businesses are operating without adequate cyber security protection as it indicated that the successes of most attacks in 2017 were in one way or another linked to one critical issue of weak security architecture. It also pointed out a specific challenge for Nigeria in fighting cybercrime, which is lack of cyber security skill and expertise.
Speaking on the need for Nigerians to be digitally aware, the Director General of NITDA, Dr Isa Pantami, said the cybercriminals are using social engineering, phishing mails, and probably specific to Nigeria, the use of text messages pretending to be sent from banks, requesting for PIN or revalidation of BVN numbers. “To the unaware, such are the sources where vital information needed for making unauthorized withdrawals from victims’ bank accounts occur” he said. The DG added that a more worrisome and recent trend is the SIM Swap cases, where the victim’s SIM card is swapped; an operation that makes the victim’s phone inaccessible while funds are transferred.
However, to increase the awareness among Nigerians, NITDA had started nationwide cybersecurity awareness workshops. Speaking on the initiative, the DG said: “These sensitization events are part of the agency’s continuous efforts aimed at equipping citizens with foundational knowledge as well as share best practices on staying safe in cyberspace. Knowing that everyone that uses ICT devices is vulnerable, these workshops target executives of registered associations and groups, with the ultimate aim to reach their members”.
Pantami added that NITDA had also deployed effective conventional channels and social media in conveying the stay-safe message. “The workshops use presentations and interactive demonstration of trending concepts like SMS, SIM swap, malware, phishing, social engineering and its manifestations, to disseminate the stay-safe tips. To further ensure that attendees assimilate the message succinctly, the contents are translated into the most predominant language of the zone”.
He noted that cybersecurity has attracted the attention of governments, enterprises, groups and individuals owing to the myriads of potentials for business growth, damage, national security and sovereignty. “To nations, the negatives could cripple a nation’s economy should critical infrastructure be affected. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has evaluated nations in the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), placing Nigeria on number 4 in Africa. These programmes are also aimed at improving the country’s standing on the GCI” Pantami said.
He disclosed that NITDA has planned effective capacity building programmes that would culminate in organizational and individual certifications, while using Research and Development (R&D) results to feed these enlightenment programmes and aid relevant Agencies and corporates in permanent mitigation strategy. It has also utilized interagency collaborations for improved legal and institutional framework for a holistic improvement in the cybersecurity resilience of and profile of the country.
Meanwhile, cybersecurity experts had warned that with the on-going efforts to deepen mobile money in the country, Nigerians would be more vulnerable as the cyber criminals would take advantage of poor cyber security in the country to defraud many people through the mobile platforms. The noted that the more people go online, the more they are exposed to cyber-attacks, hence, they called for more awareness and security readiness.
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