By Iteveh Ekpokpobe,
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may be losing the battle against identity management and integrity of users information as patronage of pre-registered Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards is still high in South-South and South East States of Nigeria.
The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration initiative required for all mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards with their respective mobile network operators, was designed to capture the identity of mobile phone subscribers for identity and security management.
The exercise which kick started May 1, 2010 involved a massive campaign by the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) across cities and rural areas of the country, and despite the challenges, it has been adjudged to be a huge success.
The registration exercise of old SIM cards was officially concluded by the NCC on June 30, 2013 while that of new SIM continues.
However, our investigation machinery has discovered that sales of pre-registered SIM cards is still alarmingly high in major markets across the two geo-political zones with price tags ranging from N500 to N1500.
In Delta State where the investigation kick started, sketches of sales were noticed in Ogbe-ogonogo market, Asaba, Abraka in Ethiope East as well as Effurun in Uvwie Local Areas. In Swali market in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, Onitsha Main Market in Anambra, Ariaria International Market, Aba in Abia State, Oil Mill Market in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State were also noticed.
The reason behind the patronage and sales according to respondents was basically the rigours involved in registration processes.
Mr. Seleowei who spoke in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State said many of the users who buy pre-registered SIM cards do not want to pass through the rigours of registering.
According to him, some times, they buy for their aged ones too who cannot be subjected to the stress of stepping out for registration hence they prefer the pre-registered SIM cards.
The activity though adjudged to be criminal, by the NCC laws, lacks clear cut punitive provisions.
A Lagos based legal luminary, Barr. Ajiri Obarogbi in a chat, said one factor impinging on the enforcement of the order given by NCC is the inadequate provision of laws to that effect.
Ajiri said It’s quite expedient, that the Federal Government through it’s agency and regulatory body (NCC) provide adequate penalties to deter persons from indulging in the act. “A person cannot be punished for an offence unknown to law, hence the call on the Federal Government to provide good legislation and punitive measures in order to discourage such acts and to also to protect innocent purchasers.”
Recall that the Executive Vice Chairman, EVC, of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, recently enjoined members of the public to report such criminal activities to law enforcement agencies rather than patronise the criminals. He said that consumers should see it as part of their responsibility, not only as subscribers but also as good citizens.
According to the EVC, “We are saying this today with regard to instances of use of pre-registered SIM cards in the country. By our regulation, any new number acquired by the subscriber would be unable to originate calls until such a number is registered before it is activated in the network. It also means that any number that is not registered or activated by the service provider would remain inactive in the network. When we talk about consumer interest, we also speak about consumer responsibilities. We expect the consumers and members of the public to also embrace our disposition by assisting the Commission to eradicate some fraudulent activities that exist in the industry, especially those ones that are within their purview of support.”