Judiciary Backs Review of NCC Act, Calls for Legal Empowerment


Emma Okonji

Judges under the National Judicial Institute (NJI) have thrown their weight behind the review of NCC Act, which created the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 2003, insisting that the commission needs more legal powers to address issues emanating from technology evolution that were not captured in the Act, 15 years ago.

The judges gave their support in Lagos yesterday during a workshop organised for judges on legal issues in telecommunications, sponsored by NCC and the NJI.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, and Chairman, Board of Governors at NJI, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who was represented by Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba, said if empowered by law, NCC would be able to handle more complicated issues that have legal connotations.
According to him, NCC needed to work closely with the judiciary on matters relating to disputes in telecommunications, in order to assist the judiciary to have better understanding of telecoms matters that are brought before the court.

The Director, Legal and Regulatory Services at NCC, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, in her presentation on the NCC Act 2003, said: “The Act which is currently under review by the Senate and members of the House of Representatives, falls short of the legal power to address telecommunication evolving issues like child online protection, electronic evidence in legal cases, multiple taxes, data protection laws, local content in telecommunications, call masking, among others.”
She was of the view that if the issues were addressed at the judiciary workshop and effected in the ongoing review of the NCC Act, it would enable NCC to act faster in addressing current issues bedeviling the telecoms sector.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta, who was represented at the workshop by the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management at NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare, said the telecommunication industry had been identified as one of the key drivers to economic growth and development in the Nigerian polity, and that NCC had since recognised that no such reforms would stand the test of time without the foundation of due process and the rule of law. “That is the philosophy behind the bold step of exposing our judges to issues in telecommunications,” Danbatta said.

Chairman, Governing Board of NCC, Senator Olubiyi Durojaiye, who was represented by Mr. Clem Baiye, one of the NCC Board members, encouraged the judges that were present at the workshop, to savour every resource available to them to assist the NCC in coming up with adequate regulatory measures that would enhance development in the telecommunications sector. Durojaiye said the telecoms sector had become unalienable part of the country’s national growth and development, contributing over N15 trillion to the Nigerian economy since liberalisation of the digital mobile communications nearly 17 years ago, hence the quest for evolution and excellence is unending.

Managing Partner, Technology Advisors, Basil Udotai, who presented a paper on the appraisal of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the new frontier for technology and the practice of law, advised judges to embrace AI in the prosecuting of legal cases and in passing legal judgments, as AI has become the global norm for the judicial system.