Telcos get 7-day SIM ultimatum

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria 

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has handed down a seven-day ultimatum to Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) and other network providers to deactivate all pre-registered Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards or face sanctions.

This is sequel to the prevailing insecurity situation in the country and the erosion of confidence in the registration process which gulped about N1.6billion of tax payers’ money.

The decision is a fall-out of a meeting between the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Department of State Service (DSS), the telcos 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.

NCC Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo who was also at the meeting specifically said the “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; and affected subscribers to be notified to regularise their registrations.

According to a statement endorsed by OJobo, 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.

It said accordingly, the Commission has commenced monitoring as from Monday, August 3, 2015.

“Sanctions for default will apply in accordance with the SIM registration regulations,” NCC warned.

On multiple SIM registration, NCC argued that 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,” Ojobo explained.

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 about image also noted that as at September 2014, about 45 per cent 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 per cent 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,” NCC said.

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