The Federal Government on Wednesday directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to review SIM card registration and usage to disallow any Nigerian from owning more than three mobile telephone lines.
The directive came in the wake of the rising wave of killings and kidnapping for ransom and general insecurity.
Telecom operators will also be required to block all unregistered SIMs from functioning on their networks.
Communications and Digital Economy Minister Isa Ibrahim Pantami said: “The revision of the policy is based on the feedback received from the security agencies, following the successful revalidation of improperly registered SIM cards in September 2019 and the blocking of those that failed to revalidate their SIMs”
According to a statement by the Minister’s Technical Adviser, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, the revision of the policy would be undertaken before December 1.
The statement said: “Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to revise the Policy on SIM Card registration and usage.
“This is in line with the Powers of the minister as stated in Section 25(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003- “the Minister shall, in writing, from time to time notify the Commission or and express his views on the general policy direction of the Federal Government in respect of the communications sector.
“The revision of the policy is based on the feedback received from the security agencies following the successful revalidation of improperly registered SIM cards in September 2019 and the blocking of those that failed to revalidate their SIMs.”
The updated policy is expected to include the following provisions, amongst others:
Ensure that the National Identity Number (NIN) becomes a prerequisite for Nigerians registering new SIM cards (while for foreigners, their passports and visas should be used), while already registered SIM cards are to be updated with National Identity Number (NIN) before 1st December 2020;
Ensure that only fully-accredited agents support the SIM card registration process without pre-registering SIM cards themselves, while the eventual registration should be done by the operators;
There should be a maximum number of SIM cards that can be tied to a single individual, possibly a maximum of three;
Ensure that no unregistered SIMs are ever allowed on mobile networks;
Ensure that subscribers can easily check the number of SIM cards registered to their name, along with the associated phone numbers and networks;
Ensure that mobile network operators fortify their networks against cyberattacks and ensure that they adhere to the provisions of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR); and
Ensure that SIM cards that have been used to perpetrate crimes are permanently deactivated.
“The NCC is to provide the minister with progress reports on the implementation of the revised policy,” the statement said.
But telecommunication operators said the new measures may not stop criminalities in the country.
The operators’ umbrella union- Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) – said it will be counter-productive for the minister to work on the assumption that NIN data is foolproof.
Its President, Olusola Teniola, said the criminals will go and get many NINs to register SIM cards with which they will use to carry out their nefarious activities.
Teniola said that SIM registration should not be associated with intelligence because some users use feature phones of 2G which is blind to geo-partial information.
He concluded that SIM registration cannot be a panacea to ending criminal activities and listed post-code system and digital address system as measures that had worked in other climes including the United Kingdom (UK) and Ghana.
He urged the minister to take the issue of digital address system seriously.