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NCC directs suspension of sale, registration and activation of new SIM Cards over use by terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, other criminals

The Nigerian Communications Commission has directed Mobile Network Operators to immediately suspend the sale and activation of new SIM cards to allow an audit of the Subscriber Registration Database.

Ppre-registered SIMs are freely used by Boko Haram/Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals to further their enterprises, thereby perpetuating the unending insecurity across the country.

The Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, in a statement on Wednesday, said it was absolutely necessary for operators to comply until the audit exercise had been concluded.

According to him, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, directed the commission to embark on an audit of the Subscriber Registration Database.

In September 2019, Dr. Pantami, had directed the MNOs through NCC to deactivate 9.2 million Sim card lines.

Before the directive, NCC commenced the second phase of Sim Registration as part of the Commission’s determination to continue to enhance national security objectives, consumer protection, and zero tolerance for registration related infractions.

According to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, “the NCC is very sensitive to the fact that the Subscriber Registration Database is a veritable tool being used by security and law enforcement agencies in the detection and apprehension of criminal elements involved in heinous crimes like kidnapping, financial crimes, armed robberies, banditry, cattle rustling and other crimes which leverage on easy access to the national telecoms network. As such, we are determined to continue to ensure that all SIM cards are traceable to their real owners with the least effort.”

The verification exercise, part of the NCC’s consistent regulatory interventions to ensure a clean and credible SIM registration database, started with the enactment of the Subscriber Registration Regulations and registration specifications in 2011.

It was significantly ramped up in August 2015 when the MNOs were given a deadline to disconnect SIMs found not to be fully compliant with registration requirements, with the attendant consequences.

In 2017, the SIM Registration Task Force was set up to further harmonise registration practices across all networks, and it culminated in the recent establishment of a joint Industry Working Group comprising of senior representatives of the NCC, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and MNOs. That Working Group was set up with the singular mandate of harmonizing the subscriber registration process with the National Identity Card Registration Project.

“Currently, verification and scrubbing of SIM Registration data is ongoing. This is to ensure the integrity of data submitted to the Commission by the MNOs, before we feed the cleaned-up data to the central database warehoused by NIMC.

“The full statement reads:

“In line with the Federal Government’s desire to consolidate the achievement of the SIM Card registratio​​n exercise of September, 2019, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to embark on another audit of the Subscriber Registration Database again.

The objective of the audit exercise is to  verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM Card Registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Commission.

Accordingly, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are hereby directed to immediately suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM Cards until the audit exercise is concluded, and Government has conveyed the new direction.

However, where it is absolutely necessary, exemption may be granted in writing by the Commission following approval from the Federal Government.

MNOs are to please note that non-compliance with this directive will be met with strict sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating license.

As the Minister has earlier directed in January, 2020, all citizens are urged to immediately secure Digital Identification from the National Identity Management Commission and submit it to the Network Operators”. 

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