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Cyberthreats: NCC protecting consumers’ interests, integrity of digital ecosystem, says CAB

*Alkasim Abubakar, Director of Consumer Affairs Bureau of the Nigerian Communications Commission, also urges stakeholders at the recent 2nd Quarter 2023 Open Forum of Industry Consumer Advisory Forum in Lagos, to collectively build ‘a culture of digital literacy and resilience’ that safeguards the Nigerian digital future

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

As cybercriminals devise dubious ways of exploiting unsuspecting consumers through various forms of electronic fraud, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has continued to rally the major stakeholders in the telecommunications for the overall safety and security of the West African country’s digital landscape.

ConsumerConnect reports Alhaji Alkasim Abubakar, Director of Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) of NCC, stated this in his address at the recent 2nd Quarter 2023 Open Forum of the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) held in Lagos.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman/CEO of NCC (middle), and some other key stakeholders at ICAF’s 2nd Quarter 2023 Open Forum, in Lagos 

The stakeholders’ engagement forum had the theme, “Combating E-fraud on Telecom Platforms and Building Consumer Confidence in the Digital Economy”.

Abubakar said the overarching objectives of the Forum was to resolve a pressing issue that affects not only the telecommunications industry but also the overall safety and security of the entire Nigerian digital landscape.

The Directors of CAB told the participants:

“In recent years, the growth of the telecommunications sector in Nigeria has been remarkable.

“With increasing access to mobile phones and Internet connectivity, we have witnessed a surge in digital transactions, making our lives more convenient and efficient.”

He, however, observed that the rapid expansion had also opened “new avenues for criminals to exploit unsuspecting individuals through various forms of electronic fraud.”

Referring some reports, Abubakar disclosed that Nigerians had lost about N12.5 billion to financial crimes linked to the telecommunications industry in the past four years to cyberfraudsters.

The NCC Director further related the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) had estimated that USD600 billion was being lost to cybercrime each year, an increase from a 2014 study that put global losses at about USD445 billion.

Incidence and effects of cyberthreats on African continent

Abubakar as well said in Africa, a Nigerian newspaper, August  2022, reported the peril of cybercrimes recorded a massive rise in the first six months of 2022, “with phishing and scams hitting 438 percent and 174 percent in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively.”

In terms of the negative effects of e-fraud poses a significant threat to society, he noted that it undermines the trust and confidence in the country’s digital platforms, hampers economic growth, and adversely impacts the lives of our citizens.

Consumer protection remains

NCC’s core mandate 

According to the CAB Chief, as the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the telecommunications industry, “the NCC recognises its duty to safeguard the interests of consumers and protect the integrity of our digital ecosystem.

“This forum provides us with an opportunity to come together as stakeholders, including telecom operators, financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, government bodies, and concerned citizens, to collaborate and devise effective strategies to combat e-fraud.”

Abubakar stated in his address that “the NCC remains committed to its mandate of creating an enabling environment for the sustainable growth of the telecommunications sector.

“To this end, we have already implemented several initiatives aimed at mitigating e-fraud risks.”

Emphasising the importance of stakeholders’ collective efforts at tackling cyberthreats in the Nigerian digital space, the Director said the battle against e-fraud required constant adaptation and continuous improvement.

Abubakar restated the 2nd Quarter 2023 Open Forum of ICAF would serve as a platform to share best practices, exchange knowledge, and explore innovative solutions to stay ahead of the ever-evolving tactics employed by fraudsters.

He, therefore, encouraged all participants “to actively engage in discussions, share their experiences, and propose practical recommendations.”

In order to sustain consumer confidence in the digital ecosystem in the West African country, the Director of CAB urged stakeholders: “Let us leverage the collective expertise … to develop strategies that strike a balance between convenience and security, ensuring that our telecoms platforms remain safe and trustworthy.”

Charge to operators to prioritise consumer education and awareness

As the avowed core mandate of the telecoms sector regulator, Abubakar also urged all stakeholders to prioritise consumer education and awareness.

He noted that by equipping individual consumers with the necessary knowledge and skills to identify and report e-fraud, stakeholders can empower them to protect themselves and contribute to the broader fight against cybercrime.

According to him, ‘the consumer’ is one of the major stakeholders in the telecoms industry.

“It is our desire as a Commission to ensure that they enjoy primary focus.

“We believe that through adequate education, information sharing, and the provision of an array of channels for redress, we can safeguard telecom consumers, and innovatively promote the prospect for greater Consumer Experience in the Digital Economy,” said he.

Abubakar assured the participants that “together, we can build a culture of digital literacy and resilience that safeguards our nation’s digital future.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the participants, speakers, and organisers who have made this forum possible.”

“Your dedication and commitment to addressing e-fraud in the telecoms sector are commendable.”

He urged the participants to take the opportunity of their engagement at the forum to forge stronger partnerships with a view to developing practical solutions to overcome the challenge in the country’s digital space.

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