By Emeka Aginam
THERE is palpable anxiety among a broad spectrum of Nigerians over plans to register mobile lines in the country by the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, as a result of security issues involved in the exercise.
However, theÂ decision of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to order telecoms operators in the country to begin the process with effect from March1, 2010, did not come to many as a surprise as many industry experts have long been clamouring for the scheme, which they said would help prevent phone-related crimes in the nation.
But the SIM-card registration exercise as announced by NCC is already raising eyebrows in the country as some subscribers fear that the new development may be misused by the security agents to encroach on citizensâ€™ rights in the name of surveillance, while others see it as a good measure that will aid tackling crimes like kidnapping, where perpetrators use phones to make demands.
Apart from monitoring telecrime with SIM Card registration, theÂ process, keen observers said, will provide a greater database of market information of mobile phones technology in the country, thereby ending disputes around the market leader.
In the registration excise which willÂ take effect from March 1, 2010, for instance,Â the regulatory authority had outlined necessary requirements which are not limited to the following:
lCorporate/Company or Work Place Identity Cards that has Pension Identification /Tax Numbers etc.
lStudent ID Cards from recognized institutions
*Drivers License issued by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC; and
To eliminate forgery, passport falsification, and multiple acquisitions of passports and make identity theft by unscrupulous elements in the society difficult, the Commission also stated that the registration process will include a capture of the photograph and other biometrics of the subscriber, adding that proxy registration shall be restricted to the direct families of persons seeking registration.
Although theÂ registration exercise was seen as a welcome development by well meaning Nigerians and opinion leadersÂ because of theÂ level of crimes being committed in the country with mobile phones, a close monitoringÂ of public discussions among Nigerians on the plannedÂ exercise reveal that the new developmentÂ had already beginning to createÂ some kind of fearsÂ in such quarters, especially among dubious Nigerians who use cell phones for nefarious activities including kidnapping.
In some developed economies especially, Federal Republic of Germany where subscribers are required to register their SIM after purchase; crimes using mobile phones are reduced to the barest minimum.
But why SIM card registration? What about the security of individual database? Will the bio-data of individuals be protected? These are the fundamental questions that must be answered before the commencement of the exercise, a young man inÂ Ikeja opined.
According him, Nigeria is not yet ripe for SIM card registration because of what he described as lack of IT infrastructure to take care of bio-data of individual subscribers.
But in a swift reaction, a young ladyÂ said that there was nothing wrong withÂ SIM Card registration. “The registration will curb crime wave in the country. Kidnapping will stop to the barest minimum as there is no way kidnappers will use registered phones to perpetuate their nefarious activities,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu had said that his committee is in the process of bringing out an enabling law to empower NCC to register these lines, adding that the Senate and the House of Representatives are working together to bring this Act into law.
ASIM card registration is very crucial to the security of this country because a lot of people have been duped in the past. You see the level of kidnapping going on; if we can identity the callers, it will reduce. The psychology of this is that if the maker of such threat calls will eventually be identified, people will think twice before doing it.
“Our worry is that if high level cyber crimes come into this country, most of our banks will close in one day. This is so because most of Nigerian banks are too vulnerable,â€ he said.