The Nigerian Communications Commission has declared the registration of 95.7 million Subscriber Identity Module cards invalid because of improper capture of fingerprints and faces.
Thus, the telecommunications regulatory agency may soon send the owners of the SIM cards back to registration centres where their details would be properly captured.
The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, Mr Sunday Dare, made the disclosure of improper SIM registration at a regional sensitisation workshop in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, according to a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday.
Speaking on the dangers of fraudulently preregistered SIM cards, Dare, who was represented at the forum by the Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement at the Commission, Mr Efosa Idehen, said those who indulged in the illegal activity would be charged for felony, adding that they risked 25 years’ imprisonment as prescribed by the law.
He said that since the SIM registration exercise started in 2011, a total of 151,449,837 registration data of subscribers had been processed, with only 55,749,652 records valid, making 63.2 per cent of the total records invalid based on invalid face capturing and fingerprints.
He said once an agent engaging in preregistered SIM cards was arrested, the culpability could cascade to other players in the SIM registration value chain including the super agents, the heads of marketing of mobile network operators and the chief executives of the mobile service provider.
Dare insisted that the right things must be done by the registration agents and their MNOs to curb the dangers posed by the menace.
According to him, the new moves follow eight years of continuously 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.
He said that the failure constituted threats to national security and jeopardised national interests.
Dare listed several sanctions provided in the Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations 2011 for improperly-registered SIM cards to include the imposition of N1m on a person found to be dealing with subscriber information in a manner inconsistent with the regulations, arrest and prosecution.
Beyond the provisions, he added, the commission would begin to plead national security and national interests against anybody found culpable of fraudulently-registered SIM cards in the telecom industry.
Idehen, in another presentation at the forum, took participants through the various regulatory interventions already implemented and other ongoing initiatives aimed at enforcing broad range compliance with SIM registration rules in the last eight years.
He said, “The commission has carried out enforcement activities throughout the country. Registration agents have been arrested, registration machines confiscated, huge cache of fully activated SIMs has been confiscated, and suspects are being prosecuted while fines have been imposed.
“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.
“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 abetting 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.”
According to him, the low compliance level necessitated the need for the sensitisation workshop to educate all players in the SIM registration value chain on the dangers posed by fraudulently-registered SIM cards to the country’s national security.