Monday 7 December 2020

Recycled SIM Cards Flood Streets, Markets


* Vendors register customers without ID

* The act compromises nat’l security – Experts
* NCC, telcos deny wrongdoing even as shoddy deals persist

Improperly registered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards have flooded Nigerian streets and markets as they are freely sold to willing buyers, Daily Trust reports.

With just N200 or less, customers who want the SIM cards for legitimate purposes or those with criminal intent get them from vendors selling by the roadside, in vans or wheel borrows.

This is against a ministerial directive one year ago for the blocking of all improperly registered SIM cards to stem insecurity and other crimes.

Mobile telecommunication providers were also asked to ensure all SIM cards were properly registered but findings revealed that shoddy deals remained prevalent across the country.

A lot of irregularities persist amidst insistence by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) the regulatory body and the telecommunications companies that the right process is being followed.

Experts say it would be difficult for security operatives to contain acts of terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and other sundry crimes when those perpetrating them have unlimited access to SIM cards.

On September 12, 2019, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, directed that all SIM cards not properly registered be blocked until they are fully registered.

Officials said the aim was to ensure that the over 184 million registered SIM cards/mobile lines across Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) networks had valid data that were traceable and not anonymous.

Data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as at March 2020, showed that the number of improperly-registered SIM cards had dropped from 9.2m to 2.2m.
A sim card registration official attending to customers at the Farm Centre, GSM Market in Kano

This is just as the regulatory agency insists it has provisions that prescribe a controlled environment where SIM cards must be registered and not with roadside agents.

The NCC also said it was harmonising data on the national ID card with SIM card details and the international passport to ensure a seamless identification of SIM card owners.

Similarly, the telecommunications companies, MTN, Airtel and 9mobile, all said they accord utmost priority to SIM card registration and that they ensure that they work with only persons/ entities licensed by the NCC in registration activities.

Daily Trust reports that the Senate has directed its committees on communications and legislative compliance to summon Pantami over the country’s growing insecurity.

The resolution of the upper legislative chamber followed a motion sponsored by the Senate’s Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha.

While moving his motion, the Taraba South senator lamented that relevant authorities were allowing people to use communications services without taking their information – valid identification and biometrics.

Daily Trust investigation found out that SIM cards purchased by the roadside from alleged accredited vendors of the telecommunications companies are being described as “recycled lines” by customers who bought them. Our correspondents saw many infractions after surveying mobile phone and SIM card vending hubs on the streets of Abuja city centre and some neighbourhoods; as well as in Nasarawa, Kano, Kaduna and Lagos states.

At the offices of Glo and MTN in Wuse 2 in Abuja and those of 9Mobile and Airtel within the same axis, vendors were seen discouraging people from going into the main telecoms offices, saying they could do the same job of issuing and registering SIM cards for them.

Many unsuspecting customers get lines through the process and later discover that it is either not well registered or the line belonged to someone else.

Musa Usman said he bought a SIM card for his brother by proxy, an act that is against the rule.

“I was asked to provide an ID card, but I told the vendor that it was for my brother and he registered it after I parted with extra N200. However, he told me that they were not allowed to register by proxy,” Usman said.

Glory Akor complained of how she kept receiving calls from strange people through her newly ‘registered’ MTN and Airtel lines, claiming the lines belonged to people they knew.

“I became disturbed when someone from the South kept calling through the Airtel line and addressing me as ‘Bolaji’ whom he claimed owned the SIM card. I was accused of stealing the line and I had to drop it,” she said.

Mr Sunday Okoh, a resident of Mararaba town in Nasarawa State, said he bought a ‘new SIM card’ and registered it at a vending hub along the Abuja – Keffi expressway.

“After paying N200, the SIM card vendor purportedly took my biometric data and captured my face with a camera. He said the line had been registered and I left.

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