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‘Faulty SIM registrations, at the heart of insecurity’

…2.24 million SIMS still badly captured
…FG gives NCC 9 days ultimatum to rectify or deactivate

By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor &Emmanuel Elebeke

The Subscriber Identification Module, SIM registration which flagged off, March 28, 2011, now appears to be a blessing and a curse , all, rolled into one.

NCC
Sim-cards

When the idea was muted, it was meant to serve two primary objectives; one was to mitigate security concerns in tracking criminal uses of telephones to perpetrate crime in the country. The other, was to establish a central database of SIM card subscribers as an enabler to the overall national identification system.

However,eight years down the line, industry stakeholders are becoming deeply alarmed that just a fraction  of the objectives have been achieved. Phone related crimes in the country are still relatively high, majorly as the over 113.3 million Nigerians on the internet, access the internet through mobile phone.

This is just as the idea of using registration to achieve a central database for the purpose of a national identification system has also not yielded total results. Harmonisation of registrations between the commission and the major operators took a bit of time and the issue of unregistered, improper registration and preregistered SIMs still persists and has not helped a total and reliable national database system.

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Last week in its baseline short-term performance target report, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC had disclosed that about 9.2 million mobile SIM cards, did not comply with the proper procedures of SIM registration.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta who signed and sent the report to the ministry of Communications Technology, said the badly registered SIMs were captured after an investigation carried out at the behest of the ministry

Meanwhile the alarming situation has attracted the interest of the Minister Dr Ibrahin Isa Pantami who fears that the security implication of the irregularity is too grave to ignore.

Although between last week and now, the Commission has moved avert the impending danger by ensuring that about 6.775 million out of the lot had been rectified, the minister on Monday, insisted that the remaining 2.24 million should be immediately deactivated.

Pantami used the opportunity of the inauguration of the newly constituted board of the NCC, to issue the directive. He said the development is a security risk to the nation and should not be treated with kid gloves.

He said that since SIM cards are usually involved in most of the crimes committed in the country, the regulator should  notify all Telecom operators that after September 25th any SIM that is involved in crime should be traceable to a particular individual.

He said:”After my announcement last week of the 9.2million SIM cards in circulation, the NCC has informed me that about 6.775million have been rectified. We believe that on the 25th September, 2019 we don’t want to have single incomplete registration of SIM cards in Nigeria.  This means we have only 2.24million yet to be rectified. So, we want them to be properly rectified on or before 25th  September, 2019.

“In that direction, we want the management to immediately inform the   telecom operators that after 25th of September if a crime is committed and a SIM is used, we only need the number of that SIM from the regulator to know the identity of the person who committed the crime. With that a lot will be achieved. We will submit the identity to the security agencies.”

“From investigations, 99 per cent of crimes committed in Nigeria, are connected to SIM cards. The government cannot think of any economic benefits, without first taking into account the primary constitutional responsibility of the executive, which is to protect lives and properties.

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“So, the life of one innocent Nigerian is more important than any revenue the Federal Government may get  in registering SIM cards. This is because you economic benefits do not accrue to dead people.”

He however, commended the commission for its efforts in reducing the number of improperly registered SIM cards in use in the country from 9.2 million to 2.42 million, but charged it to do more in sustaining the telecoms revolution which has ushered more rewarding moments in the country.

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