As the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) intensifies the arrest of vendors who engage in the sale of fully activated SIM cards in contravention of the commission’s directives, industry watchers said the development may erode the gain of the N6.1 billion SIM registration concluded last year, reports Festus Akanbi
Reports of the ongoing crackdown on the activities of vendors who have continued to defy the directive of the Nigerian Communications
Commission (NCC), which bans the sale of pre-registered SIM cards, dominated the media up till last week.
According to some of the reports, several arrests were made by the enforcement officials of the NCC and the police who have taken the war
to the hideouts of some of the violators scattered in many states of the federation.
For instance, a statement by NCC’s head of media and public relations, Mr. Reuben Muoka, said the enforcement team arrested 14 persons for selling pre-registered Subscriber Identification Module cards in the North-central zone a fortnight ago.
Telecoms analysts, who have been following the development, however, said the hide and seek being played by the recalcitrant vendors and
the telecoms regulators should be blamed on a number of factors, which include insincerity on the part of operators, failure of the NCC to
have anticipated a defiance of its directives and the desperation of some vendors to push the SIMs to the market for quick returns.
In June last year, Globacom, one of the leading GSM operators in the country, was sanctioned for the sale of fully-activated new SIM cards
in Abuja, a development which analysts said lends credence to the suspicion that some of the operators are desperate to push their
products into the market without giving a hoot about the implications of their actions on the recent SIM registration.
According to NCC, some of these activated SIM cards were found in places like Anambra, Borno, Kano, Katsina and Plateau states as
Globacom SIM cards purchased in April 2011 in these states were fully activated and calls were made unrestricted from the new SIM cards.
Analysts noted that the continued defiance of the prohibition of the sale of fully-activated SIM cards by vendors could cause a setback to
the recent SIM registration, which gulped N6.1billion. Investigation showed that what some of the vendors do is to register the SIMs in
their possession with fictitious names so that it could be easy to sell the cards to prospective customers without having to wait for
registration before putting the SIM cards into use.
An Ibadan-based lawyer, Mr. David Udofia, said if one of the reasons for the SIM card registration was to determine the identity of the
owners and users of the SIM cards especially at a volatile period like this, then the ascendancy of vendors who are pushing pre-registered
SIMs into the market has defeated the purpose.
SIM Card Registration Survey
Meanwhile, an independent study conducted by the Joint Action Committee on Information and Communications Technology Awareness and Development (JACITAD) has revealed that both the regulators and the parties involved in the scheme did not envisage sales of
pre-registered SIMs card by fraudulent persons.
The study titled “the Nigeria SIM Card Registration Survey 2012” also noted that there was no risk mitigation strategy during the enrolment
phase. According to JACITAD President, Mr. Shina Badaru, the survey conducted was to ascertain the credibility of the processes adopted in the SIM card registration carried out by NCC across the country as well as evaluate the responsibilities of parties involved in the exercise.
He said part of the objectives of the Nigeria SIM Card Registration Survey 2012 was to also reveal the state of SIM registration project
from the view point of independent observers without pecuniary and consulting stake. Badaru said the report indicated that measures were
promptly established to address the realised set back in the exercise.
He explained that the survey sheds light on the accuracy and credibility of the exercise; though the “importance of the exercise was never in doubt”.
Badaru argued that Nigeria is arguably the only country in the world without a single trusted means of identifying the citizens but yet “suffused with silos of ID initiatives”. The report said the SIM cards registration data submitted to NCC by its appointed front-end (Enrolment) partners and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) revealed that seven network operators registered 80 per cent (78,647,422) of the SIMs, while the seven front-end partners engaged by NCC registered the remaining 20 per cent (22,831,253). Lagos recorded the highest number of SIM registered, according to available data from NCC’s front-end partners, with 5,395,783 SIMs, South-west states (4,581,155), North-central states (4,105,165), South-south states (4,070,156), North-west states (2,140,938), North-east states (1,776,657) and South-east states (761,399).
“This survey also confirmed that NCC envisaged the possibility of multiple SIM registration, hence requisite software were procured to
clean, scrub and match all SIMs data submitted by front-end partners. As at the time of gathering data for the survey, NCC had cleaned 40% of the data received said Badaru.”
Defending the position of the regulators, NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, in an interview with THISDAY last week,
insisted that the sale of pre-registered SIM cards is illegal, adding that advertorials have been placed in the media and that anybody
caught violating the laws will be dealt with since ignorance is never an excuse in law. “Our enforcement department has made a number of
arrests. Some people are doing it out of ignorance but that won’t stop us from prosecuting those caught violating the law,” the NCC spokesman said.
Asked to explain other measures being put in place to check the activities of vendors contravening the NCC directive on sale of SIM,
Ojobo said the commission does not sell SIM cards, saying telecoms operators have been directed to ensure their dealers and vendors abide by the directives on the sale of SIM cards.
He said: “NCC does not sell SIM cards. We have made it clear that whoever is arrested for this illegal transaction will be prosecuted.”
He recalled that SIM card registration began on April 1, 2010, when the operators were directed to begin the registration of all new SIM
cards being sold, adding that the operators, even without the permission of the NCC, also began to register old SIM cards from this
“The commission did not at any time suggest that SIM card registration in Nigeria would imply stoppage of sales and registration of new SIM
cards. The only condition is that any new SIM card purchased must be registered before it is admitted for use into the network,” he said.
Meanwhile, a source in NCC said the commission is also monitoring the situation to determine the culpability of the various operators. “The
vendors arrested will lead us to the dealers, and the dealers are bound to lead us to the operators that give them support. We will surely catch up with them.”
Ojobo explained that at the turn of 2010, the service providers had registered only about 11 million subscribers, and were also suggesting
that they need more than three years to accomplish the exercise. But he explained that the nation could hardly afford three more years from
2010. “So when the commission began the planned registration of existing SIM cards through its appointed agents on March 28, 2011, the
operators were then also empowered to register not only new SIM cards but also the existing SIMs. The combined registrations helped in no
small measure in achieving very substantial registrations by the time the data collection stage of the exercise came to conclusion on
September 28, 2011.
“Nigerians were informed that there still exists a window of opportunity for those who did not register during the six months period to do so with the operators while the collected data were being uploaded, harmonised and cleansed,” Ojobo said. According to him, all registrations by NCC-appointed agents, and those of the telecoms operators, have been successfully uploaded at the commission’s back-end infrastructure as at end of February 2012. So far, the commission has successfully uploaded 110,433,976
He said the ongoing phase of data harmonisation was expected to eliminate the problem of double registration during the last exercise,
noting that at the end of May, 2012, the commission has cleansed up to 50 percent of the data collected.
He explained further that after the harmonisation by the commission, subscribers would be allowed to verify their data. It is at this stage
that all subscribers would be able to affirm that the information they supplied during registration is correct or otherwise.
Operators Warn Agents
However, THISDAY checks showed that some of the service providers may have turned the heat on their dealers as the regulators vowed to deal with all the parties found culpable in the flagrant violation of its
directives on sale of SIM cards.
Speaking about the measures put in place by the management of MTN, the company’s general manager, corporate affairs, Funmi Omogbenigun, told THISDAY that MTN had made its position clear to its various agents all over the country.
She said: “All our agents have received very specific instructions with respect to the SIM registration process. Any agent found to be
acting illegally is dealt with summarily. We have zero tolerance for the sale of pre- registered SIMs or any activities that are in
contravention of laid down procedure as advised by the NCC.” Chief Commercial Officer, Etisalat, Wael Ammar, in a response to
THISDAY enquiries said the “company is carrying out SIM registrations at designated points of customer engagements and we will continue to work in partnership with NCC to ensure strict adherence to the subscriber registration guidelines.
Our agents across all channels are duly trained and retrained on the guidelines of subscriber registrations. We also have dedicated supervisors who regularly carry out checks at the points of registration to ensure all agents are following laid down rules and guidelines,” addding that the company’s deployed Subscriber Registration Software [SRS] is continuously upgraded to effectively handle the challenges in our operating environment.
Airtel, Globacom Keep Mum
However, head of public relations, Globacom, Mr. Ayo Asagba, could notbe reached as several calls to his mobile phone were not responded to while SMS sent to him was not acknowledged either. Also, when THISDAY called spokesperson for Airtel, Emeka Opara, his colleague who picked the call on his behalf said he was in a meeting and that he would call back but was yet to do so at press time.