Last week Friday, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced that they will be suspending their direction on "Do Not Disturb" (DND), to allow  mobile network operators (MNOs) deliver election-relevant information on behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The telecom regulator had earlier directed the MNOs to stop sending unsolicited messages to their subscribers. That directive which gave subscribers the freedom to choose what messages to receive from their network operator took effect from July 1, 2016.

Network operators had previously made a fortune from these "Value-Added-Services" (VAS) that ensured that potential customers (aka network subscribers) received "ad-like content" promoted by their enterprise customers and partners. But as expected, these MNOs abused this "distribution privilege" as they chased top-line revenue growth. It was the incessant complaints of telco subscribers that eventually led the regulator to issue that directive.

So, since 2016, a subscriber can opt-out of any form of message sent by third-party via MNOs by simply sending STOP to 2442, regardless of whatever network provider they were using. However, for the rest of these value-added services offered by MNOs, willing subscribers would need to "opt-in" by sending a specific text message to the same 2442 short-code.

However, in light of the coming Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for Saturday, February 16, 2019, the telecom regulator has given a concession to the MNOs to allow the INEC effectively educate voters.

The concession is only given to "by-pass" users DND preference on specific messages on voters' education but other existing guidance on the timing and regularity of such messages must be adhered by the MNOs.

For instance, according to an NCC statement, they said they had issued a Guidance to all MNOs and Value Added Service Providers that:

  • MNOs should ensure that their facilities are not used to disseminate political or religious contents which are abusive, insulting, intimidating and harassing, and/or which incite violence, hatred or discrimination against any person or group of persons.
  • MNOs shall maintain the principle of neutrality in all their dealings regarding all the political process.
  • MNOs shall at all times seek and obtain the approval of the Commission at all times.

The NCC are prepared for a risk of default by these MNOs and have expressed their willingness to "strictly monitor the activities of the MNOs for the duration of the temporary suspension".