Nigeria's telcos last week recounted the damage which the rumour that some phone calls could cause instant death has done to their business in the past two weeks since it broke. This is following the reported mob attack on the owner of one of the numbers peddled as a death number.

Speaking at a press conference organised by the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators (ALTON) yesterday, Ogugua Chioke, chairman of the Regulatory Committee of the association contended that the rumour was an indication that some people wanted to damage the investment of telecommunications operators in the country. He contended that the rumour had had adverse effect on the revenue of telecommunications operators even though he would not be specific on the level of revenue loss.

Speaking on the rumour itself, Chioke said the rumour is false and should be condemned in strong terms. He explained that it was not possible for a phone call either from a GSM phone, Wireless phone or Wired handset to cause death just by answering a call. Said he: "We live in a world of science and such rumours are not explainable in the technology of telephony". We want to see an empirical evidence that it really happened," he challenged.

He pleaded with Nigerians not to allow ignorance to destroy the telecom sector which is currently of much significance to the Nigerian economy. He contended that his association has undertaken thorough investigations into the issue and has not found substance in the rumour. He said that nobody has owned up to seeing anybody who died from receiving a death phone call.

Speaking in the same vein, Reuben Muoka who heads ALTON's publicity committee said that in one of the cases investigated, a cassette seller in Mile 2 had got a call from a number which was not known to him and he raised an alarm calling on the blood of Jesus to save him from a death call which attracted a crowd. At the end, Reuben alleged, the man later found out that it was his friend who had just acquired a new line that called him. But a scene had been caused at Mile 2 bus stop.

Chief Ezekiel Fatoye, Vice Chairman of ALTON said that most of the numbers paraded as death numbers were non existent in the numbering plans of the country's telecom industry and wondered how calls from such numbers can be passed to phone subscribers in the country.