ON his familiarisation visit to the Lagos State Police Command on Thursday, 17th of September 2009, the new Inspector General of Police, Mr Ogbonna Onovo, disclosed that a Bill has been sent to the National Assembly to ensure the registration of the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards that enable mobile telephone handset users to make and receive calls on the go.
It is important for the Assembly to quickly examine and pass this Bill because of the help it will render in the quest to apprehend the out-of-control security situation in the country. The area in which it will be readily handy is kidnapping, which has become the easiest means by which both amateur and professional criminals now make quick millions.
Kidnapping has become so easy that just about any group of jobless youth idling away at street corners can hit on the idea, procure toy guns and go for a snatch. A few more experienced criminals who have access to guns now employ the services of idle, young people to go after pencilled-down individuals.
A chilling aspect came to light about a week ago when the State Security Services (SSS) paraded one Abdullahi Alfa and three University of Abuja students whom he allegedly retained for the purpose of grabbing the Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu and his colleague in charge of Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN).
According to confession by the accused persons, they were to demand a ransom of N300 million and then kill Egwu after forcing him to sign the contentious agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). This shows that kidnapping is beginning to assume a dimension that threatens the security not only of individuals but also the state at large.
Coming at a time when the nation is beginning to warm up to another electoral season, the time to curb kidnapping is now, and one way to deal it a mortal blow is to bring all SIM cards into a common national registry, and to ensure that no SIM card which is not properly registered and identified will be able to access any GSM network in Nigeria.
When the GSM revolution arrived the shores of Nigeria in 2001, SIM cards were registered, though it was not clear whether the security agencies were taken into account. But suddenly, with the maddening subscriber drive by the GSM network operators, the acquisition of SIM cards was thrown completely open.Â It has since become a handy tool for criminals, especially kidnappers and extortionists because even though calls can be traced the owners cannot.
The bank, where the cash for the payment of ransom is arranged, should also get involved with the police to ensure the marking of suspicious cash to enable the security agents trace those who will be spending it.
Having recognised the SIM card as a security instrument, it is important for the network operators to prepare for their registration when the Bill is passed.
Registration of SIM cards will reduce kidnapping and other petty crimes and make it easier for the law enforcement agents to tackle.