Ahead of Nigeria General Election 2023 starting Saturday, the Federal Government has stepped up plan to ensure that technology drives the conduct of the elections, the latest being the setting up of a high-level cybersecurity response team, and toll-free emergency line, 622.
Following a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari, the Communications and Digital Economy Ministry on Thursday inaugurated a team to coordinate cybersecurity response across key Federal Government institutions that are addressing cybers attacks and cybersecurity incidents during the General Elections, Mr Reuben Muoka, Nigerian Communications Commission Public Affairs Director says in a statement made available to Technology Times.
This comes as NCC has allayed fears of claims of impending shutdown of telecoms networks across Nigeria because of the forthcoming General Elections, as being circulated across social media platforms.
“The attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC,” Muoka says, “has been drawn to fraudulent and misleading information circulating in some social media platforms, insinuating there is a planned shutdown of all telecom networks and relevant ICT Units, including online transfer facilities of the banks, with effect from today, February 23, 2023.”
According to Muoka, “these malicious and subversive messages originated and are being circulated by fraudsters and unscrupulous elements in the society with the intent to cause chaos and panic among the populace.”
The NCC advises Nigerians, telecoms services consumers and all bank customers “to ignore these or similar messages that insinuate deliberate network shutdown or disruption of services in the Nigerian telecom network. “
He says that NCC, “has received unequivocal assurances from all the service providers to the effect that all the network services are currently in optimal performance, and will not witness any deliberate shutdown or disruptions, especially at this very crucial period of general elections in the country.”
Therefore, Muoka says, “all users of telecommunications and banking services utilising network facilities are assured of continued optimal service delivery before, during, and after the general elections in Nigeria.”
Nigeria General Election 2023: How 622 Elections hotline works
He also says that NCC has dedicated its Consumer Toll-Free Number 622, to serve as 2023 Presidential Election Incident Hotline for voters and members of the public across Nigeria to report any issues that may affect them, or others, during the elections holding tomorrow, Saturday, February 25, 2023.
The toll-free number 622 is the second-level complaints centre for telecoms service consumers to make calls directly to NCC “to resolve issues concerning their telecommunications services which the service providers are unable to do,” according to the telecoms regulator.
“This step is to support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in its patriotic commitment, towards the conduct of hitch-free elections in Nigeria,” Muoka says.
According to him, “in consideration of the critical nature of this election and to alleviate emergent issues that may arise at the voting centres, or any parts of Nigeria thereof, the Commission has considered it expedient to dedicate the toll-free number 622 to accommodate all types of complaints on election day.”
NCC says that complaints received through the number will be resolved by contacting and conveying such to relevant agencies, authorities, or organisations for timely resolution.
While inviting members of the public are to take advantage of the Election Incident Monitoring Centre Hotline, 622, NCC says that the Centre, which will be manned by its top Management officials will be open to the public from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
In a related development, Professor Ali Pantami, Communications and Digital Economy Minister says that with the increased role of ICT in online activities, and its crucial role in the conduct of the 2023 General Elections, in line with the Electoral Act, as amended, the new Committee set up on Thursday will assist the nation in conducting a free, fair and credible elections.
The Minister, who represented President Mohammadu Buhari, says that constitution of the Committee, by Professor Adeolu Akande, NCC Chairman, was on the directive of Mr. President that he puts in place, a committee that will work to coordinate computer security centres in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry in collaboration with other relevant institutions towards intercepting potential cyber-attacks.
Pantami says that with the increased role of ICT in online activities, and its crucial role in the conduct of the 2023 General Elections, in line with the Electoral Act, as amended, the job of the Committee will assist the nation in conducting a free, fair and credible elections.
“Our main responsibilities in this Committee are more of advisory. Firstly, when it comes to intercepting potential attacks that may come to our cyberspace. The Committee will coordinate the NCC’s Computer Security Incident Response Team at NCC; the Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team at the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Galaxy Backbone’ National Cybersecurity Centre.
“These three centres must work together, complement each other and ensure they intercept any potential attacks on our cyberspace particularly on our Critical Infrastructure during the election so that we could either take action or provide necessary advice to the government,” Pantami said.
He said the Committee will work closely with institutions such as the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), mobile network operators (MNOs), among others, to collectively safeguard the Nigeria’s cyberspace from potential attacks or cases of vandalism and fibre cuts during the election.
“The challenges of protecting our cyberspace is a collective national responsibility; it is a national assignment. As a sector, we would play our own responsibility objectively and professionally. We would work collectively rather than working individually as agencies since we are in the same sector,” he added.
The Minister belong to the Committee that includes Professor Garba Danbatta, NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Mr. Kashifu Abdullahi, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Director General and other CEOs in the ministry, and will work round-the-clock from Friday, February 24, 2023 till the morning of Monday, February 27, 2023.
The Committee will also ensure it receives complaints around any attacks to critical infrastructure and ensure such complaints are escalated to relevant institutions, public or private, for necessary remedial actions, the Minister says.