Registered SIMs Freely Sold in Abuja

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SIM cards registered in other people’s names are now freely sold on the streets in Abuja, fuelling fears in security and GSM regulatory circles that this will negate current effort to get the true identity of mobile phone users in Nigeria.

Billions of naira had been spent to register about 100 million GSM users in the last one year by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The registration drive was spurned by concerns in the country that the unregulated use of mobile phones has been aiding robberies, kidnappings, advanced fee fraud and now even terrorism.

Investigations by our reporters revealed that Nigerians can walk up to many telecom vendors and buy SIM cards already registered in other people’s names.

Such vendors usually unemployed youths that roam the streets to register as many SIMs at in their names at a time for a paltry fee.

A source inside NCC told Daily Trust that the commission is on the trail of “some big distributors of telecom operators who are behind the sales of registered SIM cards.

Our correspondent visited four different locations where SIM cards are sold in Abuja. At Wuse Market for instance, our correspondent met a middle-aged woman who was selling recharge cards and SIM cards at the entrance of the market.

When he told her he wanted a registered card, the woman quickly reached into a wooden box beside her and handed the reporter a SIM card and said in pidgin English, “na N500 because we don register am.”

The reporter asked her: “Madam, are you sure this SIM has been registered?” The vendor responded saying, “you don’t need to argue with me, just pay I would put it in your phone and you will make calls with it now.”

After payment, the woman brought out the SIM, inserted it into the reporter’s phone. The SIM came alive and the reporter was able to make calls.

When asked why she sells registered SIMs, the woman simply said: “just to make it easy for people who are too busy to go and line up to register.”

Asked how she registered the SIMs, she said, “it is one dealer around Wuse here who registered the SIMs and it is from him we buy.” She however refused to direct our reporter to the dealer.

Also, at the GSM village in Abuja, our reporter met a man who identified himself as Ifeanyi hawking registered SIM cards.

When our reporter asked to buy a certain operator’s line, he said, “we don’t sell that one because their (the operator’s) dealers don’t do registered deal.” He then reached into his bag and handed the reporter the network he had and said, “this is N300.”

“How am I sure you have registered this line,” the reporter asked.

He said: “Put it in your phone and dial *125# and you will see that it works.” The reporter did as instructed and he was able to make calls with the pre-registered line.

He however told the reporter that not many of the vendors sell the pre-registered lines because of fear of arrest.

Findings revealed that two major operators whose dealers/vendors sell their pre-registered lines are Glo and MTN. Most of the vendors this reporter spoke to said Airtel and Etisalat registered SIMs are not available for sale in Abuja.

Investigations by our reporters revealed that NCC has so far spent about N7 billion for the SIM registration exercise. An inside source explained that commission couldn’t disconnect unregistered SIMs because of “constraints from the security agencies.” He said about 100 million SIM cards have been registered so far by the commission through consultants.

It was gathered that the data base for all registered SIM cards obtained by NCC is controlled by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). “We are just technically managing the data base for that office. We are waiting for instructions from them to stop the use of all unregistered SIM cards,” the source said.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) spokesman, Reuben Mouka, told Daily Trust that sale of registered SIM card is illegal and the subscribers engaged in the use of such cards are liable to penalties if found, apart from the grave implication of selling such card to a criminal whose activities could be traced to the seller.

“The seller, user, and an abetting operator would be liable. So, if you notice sale or use of registered SIM card, report the matter to the police because it is a criminal activity and those caught during the exercise would be tried for the offence,” Mouka said.

Last year, five SIM cards vendors were arrested in Abuja by the police and are being prosecuted, Daily Trust learnt.

On when the SIM registration would end, Mouka said, “with the recent announcement by the commission of the successful upload of more than 110 million registrations across the country by the operators and NCC appointed agents, one would assume that SIM registration has ended.

“However, with the current active lines in the network indicating less than 96 million, you can safely assume that there could have been a lot of duplications in the registrations. So this means that cleaning exercise of the data is in earnest, and the next that will follow is verification of this data. This will enable us to arrive at the appropriate number of actual individuals that registered. As soon as we go into this, if you registered in four places with your two lines, it will be finally corrected.”

He said that “after this stage, disconnection of those who did not register will commence. Yes, we have not concluded but we are finalizing now.”

As at the time of filling this report, questions sent out to spokesmen of Airtel, Glo, Etisalat and MTN have not been responded to.

Only MTN spokesman, Andrew Okeleke, called to say he had prepared the responses but that his boss had to vet it before sending it to our reporter.

Deolu Ogunbanjo, President of National Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS) said the aims and objectives of the registration exercise have been defeated if registered SIM cards can be bought.


In : Abuja

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