Federal Government’s directive to telecommunication operators through the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) to block about 9.2 million Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards without proper registration is a welcome development, though belated given the serious security challenges Nigeria has been going through all these years.
The Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Ali Pantami gave the directive following NCC short term performance report directed all agencies and parastatals under his purview to submit. The baseline short term performance targets report the figures of improper registered SIM cards in use across the country. And to ensure maximum compliance, NCC was directed to ensure all mobile network operators block all SIM cards that do not meet proper registration standards, until users comply with proper re- registration procedures.
The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration initiative, which required all mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards with their respective mobile networks operators, was designed to capture the identity of mobile phone subscribers for identity and security management .The exercise involved massive campaign by the NCC across cities and rural areas of the country. Despite the challenges, it was rated to be a huge success. The registration of old SIM cards was officially concluded on June 30, 2013 while that of new SIM continues.
The office for Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, had explained that the objective of SIM registration exercise is to assist in easy identification of mobile phones users and for the detection of crimes perpetrated by deviant users of mobile phones. It is generally illegal to buy or use SIM card that had been previously registered by a different, usually fictitious names and identities, because this will make it difficult to trace users of such SIM cards when the cards are used for crimes. By implication, anyone who bought or sell SIM cards that have been pre-registered will be arrested and prosecuted by appropriate government agencies.
However, eight years down the line, industry stakeholders are becoming deeply alarmed that neither of the objectives have been achieved. Phone related crimes in the country are still high, so much so that the country is ranked the third in cyber-crime after United States and United Kingdom. The reason for this ranking may not be farfetched considering that a greater percentage of the 91.6 million Nigerians on the internet access it through mobile phones.
No doubt, SIM card registration has played a role in arresting some ugly security challenges in the country. Security agents have said that despite the help, a lot still needs to be done on the issue of unregistered , improper and non registered SIMs that are in use in the country, as it has the tendency of threatening national security if ignored. The Army has also raised the alarm that the proliferation of unregistered SIM cards is frustrating the efforts of the military in fighting terrorism and crimes in the country. But why is it just being raised?
THE Nigerian Army’s efforts in using forensic technology to fight terrorism, and other related crimes, has as a result always met a brick wall in unraveling the identity of some suspected criminals due to unregistered SIM cards they use. These cards though registered on traceable addresses or even recognizable photos, but on reaching the operator, it is discovered that some lines are blank and no face attached to it.
WE urge that both the minister and the NCC should maintain persistent posture hence forth, as a way of arresting the illegality to the barest minimum. And Nigerians while embracing the move should actively render their support equally.
This move should be embraced by all so as to bring sanity in Nigeria and among Nigerians..