SIM fraud lands 14 in police net

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Efforts of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to halt the illegal sale and distribution of pre-registered SIM Cards in the country appear to be yielding dividends, with the arrest of 14 people across three states.

The Commission had embarked on an enforcement action over a week in the North Central states of Nassarawa, Benue, Kwara, Kogi and Niger, with a combined team of NCC officials and law enforcements agencies but the States of Kwara and Nasarawa States recorded none of such illegal activities. The NCC says this may be an indication that those earlier involved in the trade have abandoned their illegal activities.

However, in Markudi, the Benue State capital, five people were arrested in Wurukum and Modern Markets, while another two were nabbed in Lokoja, Kogi state capital.

The Head of Enforcement at NCC, Efosa Idehen, who led the team for Markurdi, says the Commission is fully determined to ensure that there will be no hiding place for anybody engaged in the sale or distribution of pre-registered SIM card in the country because it is an illegal act.

Minna, the capital of Niger State, recorded the highest number of arrests in the zone as seven people were arrested in different locations in the state capital in an enforcement exercise led by Salihu Abdu, a Principal Manager in the enforcement unit of the Commission.

The suspects arrested in Minna were caught with bags of pre-registered SIM cards in their possession, which were handed over to the police for further investigation.

While some of the arrested suspects claimed they were not aware of the illegality of their actions, some others said they are aware that it is illegal, but said they get their supplies from authorised dealers of some of the telecom networks.

The arrests of the suspects in Minna became dramatic when some of the suspects made futile attempts to escape after being arrested while some outright resisted arrest.

Abdu said that contrary to the procedure whereby, new SIM Cards are expected to remain in their packs until they are detached, or are inserted on phones to be on receive mode only until they are registered, the cards which were still in their packs when inserted into the phones, were able to make and receive calls, an indication that they have been pre-registered.

He said it is dangerous for anybody to patronise those selling preregistered SIM cards, as the buyers do not know whose identity was used to register such cards. On the other hand, those whose identities were being used to register such cards are vulnerable as they will be held responsible for any crimes committed with those numbers.

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