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NCC places felony tag on fraudulently-registered SIM cards

It will no longer be business as usual for perpetrators of fraudulently-registered Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards, as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has threatened to henceforth try those indulging in the illegal activitu as felony with 25 years imprisonment, as prescribed by the law.

This is just as the Commission disclosed that since the SIM registration exercise started in 2011, “a total of 151,449,837 registration data of susbrcibers have been processed, with only 55,749,652 records valid, making 63.2 per cent of the total records invalid besed on invalid face capturing and fingerprints,” underscoring the importance of proper SIM registration.

According to the Commission, henceforth, once an agent engaging in pre-registered SIM cards is arrested, the culpability in such a case will cascade to other players in the SIM registration value chain including the super agents, the Heads of Marketing of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and possibly the Chief Executives of licensees, who illegally benefit from such illegal SIM registration activities to meet their marketing targets.

Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare, who stated these during the South-South regional sensitisation workshop on the dangers of fraudulently-activated SIM cards organised by the Commission in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, insisted that the right things must be done to by the registration agents and their MNOs to curb the dangers posed by the menace.

According to Dare, who was represented at the forum by the Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement at the Commission, Mr. Efosa Idehen, the new moves follow eight years of contunuously fighting cases of fraudulently-registered or activated SIM cards by the Commission starting from 2012, without appreciable compliance by the MNOs and their different layers of registration agents across the country, thereby constituting threats to national security and geopardising national interests.

Dare explained that aside several sanction provided in the Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations 2011 for improperly-registered SIM cards per SIM cards, penalty for violation, imposition of N1 million on person found to be dealing with subscriber information in a manner inconsistent with the Regulations, arrest and prosecution, among others, which the Commission has been enforcing, the NCC “will begin to be pleading national security and national interests against anybody found culpable of fraudulently-registered SIM cards in the telecom industry.”

Meanwhile, aside representing Dare at the event, Mr. Idehen, who made a separate in-depth presentation on dangers of dealing in pre-registered SIM cards, took the participants through the various regulatory interventions already implemented and other ongoing initiatives all aimed at enforcing broad-range compliance with SIM registration rules in the last eight years.

“Unfortunately, despite the level of stakeholder engagements, sanction so far imposed, arrests made and prosecutions secured through working with law enforcement agencies, among others the level of compliance with the SIM registrations rules by the various players across the SIM registration value chain remains unsatisfactory,” he said.

According to him, the low compliance level has, therefore, necessitated the need for the sensitisation workshop to, once again educate all players in the SIM registration value chain on the dangers posed by fraudulently-registered SIM cards to the country’s national security.

“It is no longer going to be business as usual for all players in the SIM registration value chain. We will no longer allow some deviants to jeopardise our national interest and national security.

“Today, cases of fraudulently-registered SIM cards have been aiding and abeting robbery cases, kidnappings, financial frauds and all manners of criminalities where the anonymity of the registered subscribers makes criminal investigation difficult for the law enforcement agencies.

“That is why we will now be pleading breach of national interest in the prosecution of arrested perpetrators of pre-registered SIM cards,” Idehen said.

Responding to questions raised by the participants bordering on ensuring proper SIM registration, Idehen said that aside other requirements, the only four identity cards that should be accepted by SIM registration agents who help operators to sell SIM cards are the national identity cards, the voters card, driver’s licence and the international cards while also warning that fingerprint capturing of the subscribers must be done properly.

According to him, “agents must ensure that clear pictures of the subscribers are properly captured, that their finger prints are well taken and that only four ID cards are recognised for now any of which must be presented and confirmed by the registration agents before doing SIM registration,” stressing that MNOs and their agents should accept the mantra:”No valid identity card, no SIM registration.”

Meanwhile, Idehen has said that the NCC has been working with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in the area of ensuring that data collected from the mobile subscribers are in line with the national specifications.

Other presentations made at the event to further deepen the knowledge of the participants, especially the registrations agents for different mobile networks, include an overview of NCC’s Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations, 2011 by the Legal and Regulatory Services Department; Processes & procedures for SIM Registration- Expectations from MNOs by the Projects Department as well as a presentation on overview of the SIM card registration back-end operations by the Information Technology Department of the NCC.

SIM registration agents and the representatives of the MNOs present at the forum asked series of questions with the Commission providing relevant answers in their quest to make clarifications on areas not clear to them vis-a-vis the SIM registrations rules.

The participants commended the Commission for the sensitisation nitiative while promising their readiness to place national security and national interest above commercial gains by ensuring compliance with the SIM registration rules in the country.

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