Last year, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ordered all Global System for Mobile Communication, (GSM) operators to deactivate all pre-registered SIM cards or face severe sanctions. The directive was part of decisions taken at a meeting between Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, Department of State Services, DSS, network operators and the NCC. The directive was part of government’s efforts to tackle incessant occurrences of threats via telecommunication networks and crime-related to SIM cards.
It added that the de-activation of pre-registered SIM cards of mobile network operators in Nigeria is to guard against threats to the nation’s security.
The operators were specifically told that those subscribers whose lines were not registered and have not made any effort to register them should be communicated before de-activation.
It would be recalled that infraction against the directive by a service provider, MTN, landed it into trouble. A fine was imposed on it after its inability to disconnect about 5.1 million improperly registered users on its network.
However, the telecom operator, MTN, settled with the Nigerian government as the NCC reduced the N1.04 trillion fine on the operator to N330 billion. The operator was also allowed to pay the money in a staggered payment plan that will last till May 31, 2019.
Speaking while receiving a team of Defense Intelligence Agency at the NCC recently, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC), Umar Garba Danbatta stated that that he hoped that the lesson learnt with the MTN saga will help avoid any breach by operators.
“And I hope the lesson have been learnt so that we will not commit the same breach. We had to know that it is not business as usual in the telecommunication industry. The rules of engagement must be followed. It is because of the importance we attached in security, our investors, their lives an investment in Nigeria. A lot of progress have been made in the area of security through the disconnecting of unregistered SIM card,” he said.
However, the EVC said that the fight is almost won as crime related to SIM cards have reduced drastically.
“The SIM card registration process in this country was carried out. The SIM card can be use to commit crime like kidnapping, arm robbery. Many times, we have seen situation were SIM card are used for security breaches. The NCC has remarkable contain the threats from SIM card that have not been registered or are improperly registered or pre-registered SIM card.
“To that extent, we contribute our quota to compliment the effort of the National Security Adviser to provide security of lives and properties. To ensure that the investors are giving the protection, including their investment. We have noticed a remarkable reduction in the level of crimes being using SIM,” he said.
Danbatta added that the telecommunication sector provides the best security for investors who wants to invest in th country.
The NCC Boss added that another good reason to invest in the telecommunication sector was the growth it has continue to contribute in the country despite the economy recession the nation was experiencing.
“As we are talking about recession in the economy, the telecommunication sector has contributed a positive growth of th GDP of over N1.4trillion in the first quarter of the 2016. We thought it will go down because of the recession but to our surprise, because in the second quarter, the NBS provided another figure that the sector has contribute N1.6trillion,” he said.
In it’s effort to make sure that SIM card crimes are reduced to the barest minimum, the Commission has also called on buyers and sellers of unregistered SIM to desist from it because if caught, they will face the wrought of the law.
Speaking during a raid in Wuse Market by the monitor team of the NCC, the Assistant Director Enforcement of the Commission, Mr. Salisu Abdu lamented that despite regulations and directives against the sale and use of pre-registered SIM card, operators through their dealers were still selling these cards.
“For some time, NCC has been trying to apply the SIM regulation so that all SIMs are duly registered. However, we have been having report that people are registering SIM cards and selling it to the general public.
Abdu stated that the sale of such unregistered SIM posses security challenges to Nigeria adding that four suspects which were caught during the raid, will be handed over to the police and investigation will commence and at the end of investigation we will definitely take action against them in the federal high court.
“There is serious danger in doing that perhaps it complies or it compromises national security so we have gotten report that in so many locations in Abuja and nationwide this activity is ongoing.
“Earlier on, we were doing this exercise and we have mopped unregistered SIM card in the market however it has come back again so the fine and sanction has been applied despite all efforts today we still find SIM cards in our market. That is the purpose of this exercise today.
“On the shop that we sealed we are trying to find wherever they are selling unregistered market. When we get to Wuse market we got one and the shop we have just sealed. We have bought unregistered SIM not only today.