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NCC, ALTON urge Senate to jettison new emergency free number

In order to avoid duplicating emergency toll-free numbers that are already in existence in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) have advised the Senate to jettison the proposed bill on emergency toll free number, also known as emergency numbers in Nigeria.

NCC and ALTON, described this bill as not necessary and duplication of efforts, since emergency toll -free number already exists in the country.

It will be recalled that Senator Gilbert Nnaji, Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, had stated the need for enactment of law that would take care of emergency numbers in Nigeria in view of the current upsurge in crime, adding that this facility would help the nation when there are crises.

The Chairman said; “It is important for Nigeria to adopt the 191 as the emergency number”, which informed the decision of the Senate Committee to get industry stakeholders’ inputs on the way forward.

The NCC informed the Committee that the 112 toll- free number is the globally recognised number and the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITUs) specific number for emergency calls all over the world.

After several hated debates on the issue, the Committee had insisted on dialing the 112 toll free line, just to confirm that the number is really functioning, but unfortunately, there was no response from the number.

The Committee members, who were upset by the malfunctioning of the 112 toll free line, requested to know from the NCC, what happened to the budgetary allocation for the emergency numbers since this has always been included in the NCC’s budget every year and the number is not functioning.

But, the NCC still insisted that there was no need to have a bill on the emergency toll free number since the existing one is working and this was collaborated by ALTON in its submission that there was no need for the bill since 112 exist.

Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of ALTON, informed the Senate that what needed to be done was to make the number functional and not creating another one.

Adebayo urged the Committee to support the NCC to make the 112 emergency toll -free number work.

The security agencies present at the public hearing supported the bill, insisting that it will help in facilitating their work.
However, the Senate Committee chairman told them that there is still three weeks room for submission of presentation on emergency toll free number bill, and the hearing was later adjourned till further notice.

The bill, titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to Establish a Nationwide Toll-Free Emergency Number for the Reporting of Emergencies throughout the Federation of Nigeria’, seeks to establish a nationwide and uniform toll-free emergency number in Nigeria, which is designated as 191. It also seeks to implement a nationwide system for the reporting of emergencies to emergency service agencies.

Sections 5 and 6 of the Bill seek to grant the NCC with extensive supervisory and management powers and expects it to provide direction in respect of the bill, if passed into law.

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