Laws that govern the telecommunications sector in Nigeria

The Nigerian telecommunications sector has become a priority area for the Nigerian government as it is a key driver of digital economic growth.

The sector accounted for 15% of Nigeria’s real GDP in the second quarter of 2022.
For the whole of 2021, the sector represented 12.6% of the economy

Like any other sector, the telecom sector is also regulated. It is mainly regulated by the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003.

According to the NCC, telecoms is one of the sectors whose performance pulled the country out of recession in the fourth quarter of 2020 by contributing 12.45% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

There has been an increase in the demand for telecommunications services since the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, as businesses, individuals and government institutions have relied heavily on its services for their day-to-day operations and routines.

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Key players in the telecommunications market include GSM carriers and Internet service providers (ISPs).

The telecommunications regulator in Nigeria is the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which was established by the NCA in 2003.

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The laws that govern the sector

Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA 2003). The NCA 2003 contains a detailed framework for the operation of telecommunications in Nigeria which includes; licensing, competition policy, quality service, interconnection, management of scarce resources, infrastructure sharing, universal service, tariff regulation, fines and penalties, and dispute resolution.

The Act applies to the provision and use of all communications services and networks, wholly or partly in Nigeria or on a ship or aircraft registered in Nigeria.

Section 1 of the LCN provides that: “The main purpose of this Act is to create and provide a regulatory framework for the Nigerian communications industry and all matters relating thereto”.

Although Section 2 established the NCC, Section 70 of the Act empowers it to make and issue regulations on matters such as, but not limited to, written authorizations, permits, surrenders and licenses granted or issued under the Act and other stipulated functions. .

The NCC is supervised by the Federal Department of Communications and, as required by law, anyone who intends to operate a communications system or facility or provide a communications service must be licensed and licensed by the NCC or have been exempted from these requirements.

Each type of telecommunications activity requires a separate license; however, a number of activities may be undertaken under a single licence.

The two categories of licenses issued by the NCC include individual licenses; and class licenses.

Individual license is the type in which the terms and conditions on which the license is granted are specific to the activity undertaken by the licensee.

A class license is a type of general authorization in which the terms and conditions/obligations are common to all licensees. Only requires registration with the Commission for candidates to start operating.

A unified license is an authorization that allows the holder to provide a basket of services under a single license.

The NCC, in an effort to fulfill its statutory function, has issued various regulations to govern the sector.

Regulations issued by the NCC

  • Consumer Code of Practice Regulations
  • Enforcement Process Regulation
  • Frequency Pricing Regulations
  • Lawful Interception of Communications Regulations
  • Quality of Service Regulations
  • Competition Practices Regulations
  • Regulation respecting the interconnection of telecommunications networks
  • Type approval regulations
  • Regulation respecting the annual operating charge

Other Laws Regulating Telecoms

The Wireless Telegraphy Act (WTA). this law defines the regulatory framework for the use of wireless telegraphy.

The law defines wireless telegraphy as “the emission or reception, over paths not provided by any material substance constructed or arranged for that purpose, of electromagnetic energy of a frequency not exceeding three million megacycles per second, being energy.

Section 4 of this law states that (1) No person shall establish or use a wireless telegraph station or install or use any wireless telegraph apparatus except under and in accordance with a license in this name.

(2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) is guilty of an offence.

By law, the NCC is responsible for granting and renewing wireless telegraphy licenses.

The National Broadcasting Commission Act (NBC Act)

This act which is the most important legislation that applies to broadcasting is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting services in Nigeria.

NBC is overseen by the Federal Ministry of Information.

The CNB 2020 code (6th edition) provides that “all persons who wish to operate “webcasting/online services” in Nigeria must be registered with the NBC and such persons are required to comply with the provisions of the NBC Code.

In Nigeria, the power to issue broadcasting and media licenses is vested in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the recommendations of NBC.

While Section 1 established the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, Section 2 of the Act empowers the Commission to (a)” Advise the federal government in general on the implementation of the Nanational mass communication policy with particular reference to broadcasting;

(b)receive, process and review applications to establish, own or operate radio and television stations

NBC has the responsibility to regulate and control the broadcasting industry in Nigeria.

NBC is also responsible for determining and applying penalties, including revoking the licenses of failing stations that do not operate in accordance with the broadcast code and in the public interest;

NBC is also empowered by law to approve transmitter power, station locations and coverage areas, as well as regulate the types of broadcast equipment to be used.

Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015

This Act regulates cybercrime and security in Nigeria by creating a comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework to prohibit, prevent, detect, prosecute and punish cybercrime.

Since communication also occurs in cyberspace, this law applies to the telecommunications industry.

The law promotes cybersecurity and the protection of computer systems and networks, electronic communications, computer data and programs, intellectual property, and privacy rights.

According to the law, the Office of the National Security Adviser serves as the coordinating body for security and law enforcement authorities and the Attorney General of the Federation strengthens and improves Nigeria’s existing legal frameworks in relation to cybercrime .

All law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies in Nigeria are responsible for developing the institutional capacity necessary for the effective implementation of the provisions of the Cybercrime Act 2015,

What you should know

The National Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is one of the agencies that plays a vital role in the Nigerian telecommunications sector.

NESREA is a parastatal corporation of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development established pursuant to Section 20 of CFRN 1999.

NESREA is responsible for enforcing all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria.