Following a crackdown by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), seven sim registration offenders have been charged and convicted for SIM card related offences.
According to the commission, the conviction secured through concerted enforcement efforts with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), and the Department of State Services (DSS).
The seven offenders – Bako Joseph Boy, Umar Kabiru Abdullahi, Lawal Sani, Shamsuddin Aliyu, George Eze, Ayuba Ishak, and Kabiru Ali were all charged and convicted at the Grade 1 Area Court Nyanya, Abuja and the Senior Magistrate Court, Kano.
Bako Joseph Boy was charged with the sale of SIM cards outside a controlled environment, while the other six were arraigned on the charge of the sale of fraudulently registered SIM cards.
Sim Regulation Laws
SIM registration in Nigeria began in April 2010 after a directive from Nigeria’s Communication Commission. The law mandated all sim card operators and sellers to register all sim cards.
The registration involved subscribers providing personal information and biometric scans.
The directive was made to reduce the use of pre-registered SIM cards for criminal activities like kidnapping, call masking, bullying, armed robbery, identity theft financial crimes and SIM swap fraud, among others.
However, 10 years after the law was made, many sim cards in the country are still unregistered. To remedy this the NCC has been cracking down on sim card registration offenders.
A good example is the N330 million fine imposed on MTN after the telecom giant failed to disconnect all non-registered SIM cards.
In September 2019, the Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, directed the NCC to deactivate over 9 million pre-registered sims.
NCC secures 7 convictions against SIM card offenders
Recently, the NCC secured a conviction on 7 SIM card sellers for offences bordering on violation of SIM registration laws in the country.
The offences were contrary to section 517 of the Criminal Code Act; Section 65 (1) of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 and Section 65 (2) of the NCC Act, 2003 and punishable under the same Act.
The offenders were charged and sentenced to two months imprisonment with an option to pay a fine of N15,000 and six months imprisonment or the option of fine in the sum of N20,000.
About 50 countries in Africa have Sim Card Registration laws
Apart from Nigeria, about 49 other African countries including South Africa and Cameroun have mandatory SIM card registration laws that require people provide personal information, including a valid ID or even their biometrics, before they can purchase a SIM card for their mobile device.
Like Nigeria, many are still trying to implement the laws. Earlier this year Tanzania deactivated million of sim card after the deadline for registration of sim cards passed.
In December 2019, TCRA reported that only 42 per cent of SIM cards had been registered while about 21.7 million others out of 47 million were yet to be registered in Tanzania.
New Sim Regulation
Earlier this year, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami announced a new review to the sim card registration laws that is expected to further promote safety and reduce crime with the use of SIM cards.
According to the minister, Nigerians registering new SIM cards will have to be through National Identity Number (NIN) while foreigners will do the same with their passports. Once implemented, existing users are expected to update their details with their NINs before December 1, 2020
Although the minister plans are noble, in hindsight, the large task of re-registration may translate to another rigorous exercise for both users and operators.
Also, the fact that over 2 million sim cards are still unregistered buttress the fact that the new Sim regulation may drone on for years before sull implementation.
The new wave of prosecution of not just operators but vendors could be a strong motivation for people after all.
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