NCC May Write Telcos over Improperly Registered SIM Cards

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 Commission cconcludes SIM card audit

Emma Okonji

There are indications that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator may write to telecoms operators to clean up their networks from all improperly registered and unregistered SIM cards, after the conclusion of its SIM card audit which will end soon.

NCC had penultimate week, commenced the second phase of SIM card audit across all networks, with a view to finding out if some telecoms operators are still keeping unregistered and improperly SIM cards on their networks.

The Director Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, who confirmed the ongoing SIM card audit exercise, told THISDAY that the audit team began the exercise two weeks ago, and it is about concluding the exercise.

According to him, at the end of the exercise, the commission would write to any telecoms operator whose network still harbours unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards, and order then to clean up their networks within a stipulated timeframe.

He said although the team was yet to conclude on the exercise, but that the usual practice is for NCC to write to any operator at the end of the exercise, who may be found keeping unregistered SIM cards on its network, to clean them up.

“SIM card auditing is a regulatory practice to ensure that all SIM cards on the networks of telecoms operators are properly registered, and the essence is to checkmate crimes like kidnapping, armed robbery, theft, bully, among others, carried out using unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards,” Nkemadu said.

According to the NCC, the audit was initiated specifically to monitor operators’ strict adherence to the technical and other specifications for subscribers’ SIM card registration.

The specifications are prescribed in the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations and the Technical Standards and Specifications issued by the Commission in 2011, which stipulates a fine of N200,000 for each infraction of SIM card registration.

NCC had in 2015, carried out its first SIM card audit, where it discovered 5.2 million unregistered and improperly SIM cards on the MTN network alone and wrote the telecoms company to clean up its network within a stipulated timeframe, which MTN refused to adhered to and NCC eventually fined MTN a whopping N1.04 trillion for its failure to disconnect 5.2 million improperly registered lines within the prescribed deadline.

Although NCC has completed the payment this year, which was staggered in different tranches, the fine was however reduced to N330 billion, after several plea bargain from MTN.

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) had mandated NCC to harmonise the subscriber registration process with the National Identity Card Registration Project.

At the moment, the NCC said the verification and scrubbing of SIM Registration data are ongoing. SIM scrubbing refers to the process of verifying biometric and personal information submitted by all operators in respect of each of their subscribers.

The exercise is to ensure the integrity of data submitted to the NIMC by the telecom operators, before feeding the cleaned-up data to the central database warehoused by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

“The audit is a natural next step to ensure that not only is the data already submitted fully compliant but that operators maintain the highest standards of registration practices across all their touch-points so that the subscriber data they are collecting continues to serve the national security and other interests for which subscriber registration was mandated”, NCC said.