Ahead of Nigeria Election 2023 starting today, February 25, the Federal Government has initiated a 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, February 23, 2023, inaugurated a team to coordinate cybersecurity response across key Federal Government institutions that are addressing cyberattacks and cybersecurity incidents during the General Elections. This comes as Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has allayed fears of claims of the impending shutdown of telecoms networks across Nigeria because of the forthcoming Nigeria Election 2023, as being circulated across social media platforms.
The former communications editor of the Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Muoka, stated that, “The attention of the NCC 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.”
The NCC advises Nigerians, telecom 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.”
Mr. Muoka says, “all users of telecommunications and banking services utilizing network facilities are assured of continued optimal service delivery before, during, and after the Nigeria Election 2023.”
Nigeria Election 2023: How the 622 Elections hotline works
The NCC has dedicated its Consumer Toll-Free Number 622, to serve as the 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 today.
The toll-free number 622 is the second-level complaints center 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.
It said that “complaints received through the number will be resolved by contacting and conveying such to relevant agencies, authorities, or organizations for timely resolution”. The 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.
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy – Minister Patami stated that: “Our main responsibilities in this Committee is more 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 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 centers 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 Nigeria’s cyberspace from potential attacks or cases of vandalism and fiber cuts during the election.
The Minister belongs 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 on critical infrastructure and ensure such complaints are escalated to relevant institutions, public or private, for necessary remedial actions, the Minister says.
The committee claims this step will support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in its patriotic commitment, to the conduct of hitch-free Nigeria Election 2023.