NCC Deactivates Additional 2.2m SIM Cards for Improper Registration

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Emma Okonji

In order to ensure that all registered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards are traceable to their real owners, in the event of doubt or suspicion, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, has said it has successfully deactivated the remaining 2.2 million improperly registered SIM cards across the networks of all telecom operators.

The recent cleansing of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) from every trace of improperly registered SIM cards on their networks was part of the federal government’s resolve to sanitise the telecoms industry in order to address the rising insecurity situation in the country, fueled by people who use unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards to indulge in criminal activities.

Following the September 2019 ministerial directive, the NCC, intensified efforts by reducing the number of improperly-registered SIM cards from 9.2 million to 2.2 million, before the recent final cleansing of the networks.

The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who made the disclosure in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja said: “By our records, all improperly-registered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards across Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Nigeria have been completely deactivated. The commission’s effort in this regard is in line with one of the key agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to strengthen the security of lives and property for all Nigerians.”

Danbatta said over the years, the NCC had worked with determination and through various policy initiatives, to rid mobile networks of improperly or invalidly-registered SIM cards to ensure that all the current over 184 million registered SIM cards/mobile lines across MNOs’ networks have valid data that are traceable and not anonymous.

According to him, “Our efforts received a boost, following the implementation of a September 12, 2019, ministerial directive that the NCC should compel service providers to block all improperly-registered SIM cards, pending when their owners regularise their registration.
“As at the time the ministerial order was issued, the commission, through its compliance monitoring and enforcement team had reduced the number of improperly-registered SIM cards on mobile networks in the country to 9.2 million.

“As part of the commission’s ongoing regulatory interventions such as the setting up of the SIM Registration Industry Task Force, which led to several resolutions including the Industry Working Group (IWG) on harmonisation of SIM registration process with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure a clean SIM database, the commission had, in June 2019, commenced the second round of comprehensive verification audit of MNOs’ SIM card registrations. This audit exercise was concluded in August 2019. The audit was specifically to ensure strict adherence by telecom operators to the provisions of the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations 2011.”

Danbatta in a statement, further said: “We have since initiated the second phase of SIM deactivation based on the ministerial directive and as at today, we have completely deactivated the remaining 2.2 million lines on the networks. This is contrary to reports by a section of the media, suggesting that nothing has been done with respect to the issue of improperly-registered SIM cards.”

Danbatta assured all stakeholders that the commission would continue to aggressively pursue the national objectives of delivering an accurate database of telephone subscribers in Nigeria, stating that the SIM data submitted to the commission is constantly being validated for higher efficiency to support the national security objectives of the SIM registration exercise through NCC’s zero tolerance for deviations from the proper registration process.

“I also use this opportunity to restate the commission’s commitment to the periodic SIM data audit, continuous compliance monitoring exercise on the MNOs, as well as constant consumer education and engagement against using improperly-registered SIM cards. With this, we would be able to collectively address national security concerns, especially kidnappings, banditry, armed robberies, cattle rustling and other crimes associated with SIM cards across the nation and to ensure that all SIM cards are traceable to their real owners,” Danbatta added.