Apparently responding to outcry from security quarters on continuous circulation of unregistered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards despite this having been banned, the telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Monday, October 30, 2017 inaugurated a 12-member committee to work to track such illegal act and stop it from taking place.
Just hours before the NCC set up the committee, which it called a ‘taskforce’, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, as bemoaning the existence and use of unregistered SIM cards in the country in spite of subsisting government ban, with the army chief saying the development was a major setback in the use of digital and mobile forensics by the Nigerian military in the fight against terrorism, kidnapping and other national threats.
Burutai spoke at the opening of the 6th International Digital, Mobile and Computer Forensics Conference and Training Expo organised by the Computer Forensics Institute of Nigeria (CFIN).
In his paper entitled, “Digital, Mobile and Computer Forensics as a Tool in Fighting Terrorism and Internal Threats’’, he said military investigators were able to get unregistered SIM cards from vendors last week without difficulty.
The problem goes beyond failure to register to include also improperly registered SIM cards, according to Buratai. These, he noted, were making identity tracking, especially in the case of kidnappings, terrorism and other forms of criminal acts in the country almost an impossible task.
“In some instances, these SIM cards are registered with phony names, untraceable addresses or even unrecognisable photographs.
“For those who are involved in investigation of those kinds of things, when you go to the service provider, you will discover that the data on some people is blank; there is no face attached to it.
“In some cases, the users live in the bush or hills, but registered the SIM cards with addresses that don’t exist because the man who registered them allowed such a thing without any method of confirmation.
“So, when it comes to the analysis, you discover that you are hitting a brick wall because to do a link analysis becomes very difficult or unfortunately impossible.
“I believe there is the need to raise this issue because as at a week ago, we were still able to get some SIM cards that are unregistered from vendors without any problem, and they are still working till now,’’ the army chief complained.
In an effort to tackle the problem, therefore, Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, after meeting with telecommunications companies set up the taskforce, to according to a statement issued by the NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, “bring up solutions to this scourge.”
The committee is charged with the following as its terms of reference, according to the NCC statement:
“Operators must put in place a robust and active back end to check cases of improperly registered SIM Cards before activation. The use of electronic back end is preferable;
“The Taskforce should also look at the sources of these improperly and pre-registered SIM Cards by asking operators to look inwards to forestall insiders’ abuse;
“Processes are regularly fine-tuned to establish the integrity of data captured;
“Clear up the systems regularly to wipe off an segregate between real and fake data;
“The Taskforce is also to re-examine the 2015 agreement the Commission had with telcos with a view to harmonising that and add new solutions;
“To put in place proactive measures to nip criminals’ activities in the bud, beating them in their own game;
Suggest preventive measures for the telcos to beef up the integrity of their registering processes.
“The Taskforce which has six weeks to submit its report to the EVC for onward transmission to the ONSA has Mr. Efosa Idehen, Head, Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement at NCC as Chairman; Mr. Bashir Idris, Head, Projects; Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, Head, Legal & Regulatory Services and Mr. Salisu Abdu, Head, Enforcement all of NCC are members.
“The telcos have a member each. These are Mr. Tobechukwu Okigbo (MTN); Mr. Oluwatosin Cole (GloMobile); Mr. Sola Adeyemi (Airtel) and Mr. Damian Udeh (ntel) as members.
“The list include Mr. Ikenna Iheme (9Mobile); Mr. Gbolahan Thomas (Smile) and Ms Barbara Anozia (Visafone); Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) is represented by Major Emmanuel Akpan Bassey.”
Danbatta, joined by the commission’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management (ECSM), Mr. Sunday Dare, told the Taskforce that their work “begins immediately and the six weeks are already counting,” the statement added.