Disturbed by the imminent dangers of rising incidences of improperly registered, unregistered and pre-registered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) Cards, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has warned that the situation, if left uncontrolled, could cause serious security breach in the country. The Commission therefore said it would no longer tolerate any telecoms operator that still accommodates improperly registered and pre-registered SIM cards on their networks.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta gave the charge recently in Abuja, after a high powered meeting with all the telecommunications companies operating in Nigeria.
The meeting, it was gathered, was the highpoint of several meetings initiated by the Commission in the last two years with a view to finding solutions to the recurrent dangers of the improperly registered SIM Cards in the country.
NCC had in October 2015, fined MTN a whopping N1.04 trillion for its refusal to deactivate 5.2 million improperly and unregistered SIM cards on its network, despite several warnings.
According to NCC, each infraction attracted N200,000 fine and MTN had 5.2 million infractions from 5.2 million improperly registered and unregistered SIM cards on its network, which amounted to N1.04 trillion.
Although the fine was later reduced by 25 per cent, which brought it to N780 billion after much plea bargain from MTN, the telecoms company is still paying the fine that was spread across three years for easy payment.
Danbatta however expressed the fears especially in reference to security reports from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the fear of non compliance to the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulation 2011, by the telcos. He warned that the current situation would no longer be business as usual.
"We must safeguard lives and property of Nigerians who travel by road especially now and the festive seasons and others who may be threatened or blackmailed via unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards."
Danbatta noted that several security challenges had bedeviled the country as a result of the menace of these improperly registered SIM Cards. He expressed his dissatisfaction that even where SIM Cards were registered, the captured data represents strange figures different from the user of such SIM Card.
He said the dangers are real and everybody will lose at the end, hence the need to address this now before the situation gets out of hands.
While appreciating the cooperation of the telcos so far in the race to solve the challenge, Danbatta said much is left to be done "hence this meeting", for continuous engagement adding that the meeting had the backing of the government which desires solutions as quickly as possible.
Consequently, NCC has set up a 12-man taskforce to stem the scourge.
The terms of reference for the taskforce include: Operators must put in place a robust and active back end to check cases of improperly registered SIM Cards before activation. The use of electronic back end is preferable; The Taskforce should also look at the sources of these improperly and pre-registered SIM Cards by asking operators to look inwards to forestall insider abuse; Processes are regularly fine-tuned to establish the integrity of data captured; and Clear up the systems regularly to wipe off an segregate between real and fake data.
Other terms of reference are: The Taskforce is to re-examine the 2015 agreement the Commission had with telcos with a view to harmonising that and add new solutions; To put in place proactive measures to nip criminals activities in the bud, beating them in their own game; and Suggest preventive measures for the telcos to beef up the integrity of their registering processes.
The Taskforce which has six weeks to submit its report to the EVC for onward transmission to the ONSA, has the Head, Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement at NCC, Mr. Efosa Idehen, as Chairman. Other members include the Head, Projects, Mr. Bashir Idris; Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye and Head, Enforcement, Mr. Salisu Abdu, all of NCC. The telecoms operators are also members of the taskforce, but with a single representative from each operator, which include Mr. Tobechukwu Okigbo from MTN; Mr. Oluwatosin Cole from GloMobile; Mr. Sola Adeyemi from Airtel and Mr. Damian Udeh from ntel. Others include Mr. Ikenna Iheme from 9mobile; Mr. Gbolahan Thomas from Smile Communications and Ms. Barbara Anozia from Visafone. The Office of the National Security Adviser is represented by Major Emmanuel Akpan Bassey.
The assignment given to the taskforce, begins with immediate effect, Danbatta said.