Telecom: NCC Builds Judges’ Capacity On Emerging Issues

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has commenced a capacity building workshop for judges on emerging issues in the telecommunication sector.

At the opening ceremony of the 2021 edition of the annual workshop organized for judges on legal and regulatory issues in telecommunication with the theme – ‘Adjudicating in a fast-paced world of technology and digital presence’ organized by the commission in conjunction with the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja, the NCC executive vice chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the objective was to enhance the capacity of the judiciary to dispense justice in telecommunication’s cases from an informed position oriented in appropriate and contemporary knowledge.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, more than any event in the history of the human race, has highlighted the important role that telecommunication plays in connecting businesses, governments and the society at large. As a result of the economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic, more people across the globe have become increasingly reliant on telecommunication’s infrastructure for information, meeting social distancing restrictions and working from home. Also, one of the most dynamic developments related to the digital economy has been the rise of social network sites which has set the stage for unprecedented platforms of social interactions, dialogue, exchange and collaboration.

“These platforms have opened up multiple avenues for entrepreneurship, business connectivity and engineered several activities that support ease of doing business in Nigeria. Clearly access to the internet and the platforms has bridged the gap between entrepreneurs in other climes and young Nigerian business owners,” he said.

According to him, the increased reliance on telecommunication as well as the growth experienced in the sector has thrown up some issues of legal connotation which will be deliberated upon by various experts during the course of the workshop, one of such is the ownership of online content and materials.

“It is envisaged that with the increase in the amount of online content as well as the economic value attached to it, there will be a conflicts as to ownership of online content and materials. It is necessary that your lordships are well prepared for the imminent increase in litigation in this area.

“Also, with an increase in the number of transactions and businesses taking place in the online space, it is also expedient for your lordships to be exposed to the peculiarities of adjudicating conflicts in this era of digital presence and online identity. The aim of this forum is to further build the capacity of our distinguished judges with practical insights on these emerging issues in the field of telecommunication,” he added.

In his address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman, board of governors, National Judicial Institute, Justice Tanko Muhammad, said the telecommunication sector had experienced a significant increase in the number of service providers which made the sector more competitive and prone to abuse, pointing out that some of the risks to consumers had resulted in a number of disputes and challenges which ended up in courts for adjudication.

He contended that the growing need for consumer protection in the sector was increasingly becoming complex for courts and the NCC in the converged setting of today, which he said included issues related to e-transactions such as e-commerce, e-payment, and e-banking, all creating a major challenge in the sector.

Represented by Justice John Okoro, the CJN said the workshop essentially would avail the participants an opportunity to rub minds on current challenges confronting the telecom sector, adding it would further equip judicial officers with the legal and technical skills required for adjudicating disputes in the special area of the law, and in so doing, keep them abreast with global best practices.

Muhammad commended the commission for rising up to the occasion in its bid to protect consumers from unfair practices by service providers. 

“The judiciary on its part will not rest on its oars, as we will continue to interpret the relevant laws in line with extant provisions of the law. Let me assure you that the Nigerian judiciary is committed to the development of the telecommunication sector and will spare no effort in ensuring transparent and speedy dispensation of justice. In this light, investors and stakeholders in the sector will be assured that their assets and investments are secured,” he added.

In her remarks, the NJI administrator, Justice Roseline Bozimo, said the workshop, over the years had exposed judicial officers to the rudiments of legal issues and technical aspects of the sector in order to keep them abreast of international best practices.

She disclosed that the workshop would deliberate on such issues as developing telecommunication law. jurisprudence and judicial precedents; x-ray of the Nigeria Communications Act 2003; adjudicating conflicts in the era of digital presence and online identity; liability and attribution of ownership of online content and materials.

Others are cyber security and safe use of the internet in Nigeria; social media platforms as channels for service of court processes and its challenges; online financial fraud gatekeeper: the platform owner or the service provider; and data harmonization and integrity: linkage of SIM and NIN data.

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