NATCOM : Discovery Of Sim Box Fraud Is A Start Of Positive Change

NATCOM : Discovery Of Sim Box Fraud Is A Start Of Positive Change

Friday, January 25, 2019 3:25 pm

Maxwell Massaquoi, DG NATCOM

Since Maxwell Massaquoi was appointed by President Julius Maada Bio as the new Director General of National Telecommunications Commission NATCOM four months ago, he has brought in some semblance of operational sanity into the agency. The recent discovery of sim box fraud, coupled with other stringent and prudent measures he has embarked upon as telecoms regulator, Massaquoi seemed determined to implement what was drafted in NATCOM’s charter, as he was a lead consultant early in the commission’s formative stages. He spoke with Abubakar Hashim on how he intends to reposition NATCOM from the mess he inherited


You were appointed Director General when NATCOM was enmeshed in crisis. You were part of NATCOM formative structure when it was formed in 2007 as it’s resident consultant. You are now back as the new Director General since August. What are your aims and objectives to bail out NATCOM from this mess?

Thank you for this opportunity. I must first thank the Almighty God for allowing the President to appoint me to head this institution at its critical stage of its evolution. We aim to move the telecommunications sector forward.
Presently, we aim to fortify our regulatory governance space. We are going to look at the 50 indicators that ITM has put out as check lists for efficient regulation. We are not going to be boastful to accomplish all the 50 parameters or indicators but we will strive to meet those indicators.

We want our overall scores by 2019 to move upwards. We are going to establish a better regulatory space for the sector. This is to ensure parity and liberalization to the fullest. This is to ensure that when revenue is due to government, its being secured.

Recently, there was a sim box fraud that was discovered under your stewardship, unprecedented since NATCOM was established. It received tremendous applause from the public, local and international. Though the matter is under investigation, could you throw light how it was discovered and what are the benefits to the government?

Two Saturdays ago, around the King Haman road area, a zone known as “red pomp”at 22:00 hours,a burst was made into a fraudulent operation. Individuals were apprehended. They are currently with the police under custody. We were able to apprehend and confiscate sim boxes, hundreds of thousands of sim cards and equipment. We have them in our possession as investigation is on-going. We believe there are other similar sim box operations in the country. We will not relent in our duty to minimize and finally eliminate this fraudulent activity as it is antithetical to the development aspiration of the President.

We intend to put the requisite expertise and experience in place to help identify such operations, in order to prevent such frauds in the future. We intend to eliminate this sim box fraud to the barest minimal level. The Sim Box fraud discovery is a start of positive change by NATCOM.

How do you intend to improve the quality and reduce the cost of telecom tariff in line with the “New Direction” philosophy that is people – oriented?

The tariff being paid is a social contract the telecom operators have with the consuming public. Quality and standard service is enshrined in that contract. Operators, as per license, are required to meet a certain threshold in the services being provided through the respective network system. For instance, we have the Quality Services (QS) criteria being established by the commission for operators to meet for quality services.
We however inherited from the past regime a lull in the provision of such reports. We quickly re-ignited the process and today we have generated, through a third party vendor, a quantum of reports for August, September and October. Data elements are being collected for the November report.
We have seen steady improvements in quality service looking at the August and September data, comparing with the October data. This was achieved due to our resolve to continuously relate with the MNOs like Sierratel, Africell and Orange.

We will continue to push the MNOs to meet the KPI criteria to ensure that the average user realizes that the quality of service has drastically improved.

What is your relationship with other similar telecom regulators in the Sub Region and Africa in general?
Government is continuity. We met existing relationships, which are good.

I say kudos to our predecessors, even though we have to revamp some of these relationships. We have healthy relationships with Africa Telecommunications Union (ATU), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly (WATRA). Even at the Mano River Union (MRU) level with our closed neighbors, Guinea, Liberia, we have warm relationship with the telecom commissions. We have sound, firm and solid relations with these organizations.

How do you see the immediate future of NATCOM both at the level of its formative structure when you were consultant and now as the new DG?

We are going to change the dynamics and dimension of this agency. We are going to make NATCOM a functional, effective and efficient regulator. We will change NATCOM to a better regulator with no hidden agenda. An agency that will regulate the sector with openness, fairness and transparency.

Whatever aspersions and perceptions people may have about NATCOM, I will plead to the people to allow the new NATCOM to prove itself. Hold us accountable in a year or two from now on our stewardship and grade us.
Let people judge our outputs in the next couple of months and tally these outputs to the desired expectations.

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