New helmsman at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umaru Danbatta has resumed office as the country’s telecom regulator directing all telcos to deactivate all pre-registered Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards within seven days or face sanctions.
The warning ties to the new government’s commitment to put down the insurgency in the North East of the country and also fight corruption as well as rising violent crimes such as kidnapping for ransom in the south.
Boko Haram insurgents have gained notoriety depending heavily on the services of the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) operators to communicate using pre-registered SIM card that are untraceable to specific persons or addresses. Government had long ruled pre-registered SIM as illegal.
The ultimatum, issued in Abuja on Tuesday, warned erring operators of serious consequences.
The official statement by the NCC reads in part: “[the] seven-day ultimatum …was the fallout of a meeting between Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Department of State Service (DSS), the network operators and the NCC. The meeting which took place at the NCC boardroom in Abuja, took into cognizance crimes committed against members of the public either by kidnappers, terrorists, robbers and threats to lives, through the use of such unregistered SIM cards across all the networks.”
Operators were however told to notify such subscribers before deactivation of their SIM cards.
“At the meeting were the representatives of the NSA, Group Captain, Ibikunle Daramola, DSS, Mr. Godwin Ometu, the immediate past NCC Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Dr Eugene Juwah, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Engr. Ubale Maska and representatives of MTN, Globacom, Etisalat, Visafone , Airtel and others.
“A statement by NCC Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo who was also at the meeting said specifically that:
- Seven days’ notice is hereby given for deactivation of all invalid/improperly registered SIM cards; these include all SIM cards without or improperly captured facial pictures and or finger – prints.
- Affected subscribers to be notified to regularize their registrations.
“The meeting resolved that:
- Henceforth, all registrations must conform to the Data Dictionary, Technical Specifications on finger prints and facial images and the business rule agreed by all stakeholders.
- All registration records must be validated before sending to the Commission; thus eliminating all invalid records that does not conform new registrations and indicate same in the monthly reports sent to Commission.
- It was also resolved that operators will be held liable for cases for cases of pre-registered SIMs.
- Earlier grace of 21 days given by the Commission has lapsed.
- Accordingly, the Commission has commenced monitoring as from Monday, August 3, 2015.
- Sanctions for default will apply in accordance with the SIM registration regulations.
“On multiple registrations, NCC said:
- The regulation did not set a cap for number of SIMs to be registered by individual or corporate subscribers.
- However, operators must ensure ALL registrations valid and in accordance with the documents and specifications stated in 1 (a).
- Unusually high number of registration by an individual should be flagged and reported to the commission.
- The Commission and all operators are to embark on vigorous public enlightenment on the need/ desirability for subscribers to register their SIMs, as well as the dangers of selling /buying pre-registered SIMs.
“Earlier, it was observed that:
- To date, more than 120 million SIM cards have been registered and transmitted to the Central Database by the operators.
- The validation exercise reveals a preponderance of unreliable data in terms of incomplete and/ or inaccurate demographic and / or biometric data.
- The issues relating to unreliability of data essentially borders on the operators’ failure to ensure compliance with the formats and specifications that were jointly developed and agreed by the NCC and the operators before the commencement of the exercise in 2011.
- The observation also image only noted that as at September 2014, about 45% of the total number of registered SIMs, at that time, were deemed invalid for reasons of a) invalid portrait image only, invalid fingerprints only, invalid portrait image and fingerprints, and incorrect/ inaccurate demographic data (name, address, etc).
- Since the invalid records were returned to the operators in September 2014 for correction, less than 30% of the invalid records have been resubmitted.
- These resolutions were part of the ongoing efforts by government to nip in the bud the incessant occurrences of threats via telecommunications networks and the danger they portend for psyche of the citizenry.