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BlackBerry's Nigerian future uncertain

09 May 2013, 08:31

Lagos - A new regulation by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) might curtail the use of BlackBerry services in the country.

The NCC is working on legislation that will make it mandatory for any licensee in the Nigeria’s telecoms market to provide access to its communications facilities for necessary interception by the law enforcement agencies.

The regulation, which is currently at draft stage, will be called the "Lawful Interception of Communications Regulations," and will be based on the need to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the lawful interception of communications in Nigeria and the collection and disclosure of intercepted communication.

In an interview with CAJ News on Wednesday, NCC Spokesperson, Ruben Mouka, said the new proposed regulation would be adapted before the commission adopts it.

"Yes, there is a draft regulation being worked out by NCC. However, I cannot tell you now which aspect of the draft regulation will eventually form the new regulation" Mouka said.

Further investigations by CAJ News revealed that the NCC’s current move was in line with strategic measures of the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure maximum national security by providing a legal framework that empowered the law enforcement agencies to access any licensed communication network in the country.

The Bill will also specify the nature and types of communications to be intercepted; prescribe penalties for noncompliance with the regulations; provide a notification to the commission of all warrants issued, amended, renewed or cancelled under the regulations as well as ensure the privacy of subscribers as contained in the Nigerian constitution.

It was established that Section 13 of the regulation Protected or Encrypted Communications will run to counter the technical operations of BlackBerry.

By their designs and unlike other mobile devices, Blackberry messages are encrypted and where criminal investigation is required, the law enforcement agents will face denial of access to Blackberry network.

Section 13 of the Interception of Communications Regulations empowers the National Security Adviser( NSA) and the State Security Service (SSS) to request the disclosure of protected or encrypted communications.

“Where the communications intercepted is an encrypted or protected communication, the licensee shall provide the National Security Adviser and the State Security Service with the key, code or access to the protected or encrypted communication.

"Where the key or code is in the possession of another person, the licensee shall be under an obligation to request such other person to disclose the key or code to the National Security Adviser and the State Security Service for the purpose of complying with a warrant,” the new regulation reads.

The regulation, under Section 20, also specifies the penalties for contravention.

“If a licensee or any of its officers, manager, chief executive officer, secretary or other similar officers of the licensee required under this regulation fails to comply with the provision of this regulations, such licensee or its officers shall be liable to a fine of N5m.

"If such an offence is continuing, such a licensee or officer shall be liable to a daily default penalty of N500 000.”

The regulation states that the commission may revoke the licence of the licensee for failure to comply with the regulation.

“The commission shall give a prior written notice to the licensee of such revocation, not less than 30 days to the withdrawal of the licensee.”

Also, the commission may institute an action for non-compliance through injunction or specific performance or any or such other judicial means of enforcing a duty or obligation imposed on a licensee pursuant to the regulations.

However, BlackBerry Messenger, email and web services are sent over an encrypted network and the company maintains a strict policy of non-disclosure of pass codes or keys to government officials.

BlackBerry's Public Relations company, Idea Engineers could not immediately respond to questions emailed to them on Wednesday.

As of last year, there were more than 3 million BlackBerry users in Nigeria. - CAJ News


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