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Reps moves to safeguard telecoms subscribers as NIMC confirms 15,000 enrolment centres

By Adeyemi Adepetun, Silver Nwokoro (Lagos) and Msugh Ityokura (Abuja)
07 April 2022   |   4:09 am
The House of Representatives is moving to get telecommunication subscribers protected against breach of privacies which often leads to fraud and loss of funds.

Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Lawyer urges FG to lift NIN barring order
The House of Representatives is moving to get telecommunication subscribers protected against breach of privacies which often leads to fraud and loss of funds.

Consequently, the lower legislative chamber has mandated its Committees on Telecommunications and Banking and Currency to look into the matter with a view to identifying victims and inadequacies in the relevant regulatory frameworks, in addition to proffering solutions.

The resolution followed a motion of urgent public importance moved at plenary, yesterday, by Olusola Fatoba, who pointed out that by standard practice, telephone numbers and email addresses are usually required to open a bank account, adding that in line with the regulations of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on dormant or inactive lines, network operators have the right and may reassign subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards and phone numbers once they have been out of use for a reasonable period of time.

He argued that tough there exists the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) that seeks to safeguard the rights of natural persons to data privacy and foster safe conduct for transactions involving the exchange of personal data, among others, “the occurrence of a breach of privacy, cases of fraud and consequently, financial losses, are on the increase.”

Many Nigerians, Fatoba submitted, had witnessed illegal and unauthorised deductions from their bank accounts due to the fact that their financial institutions keep sending their transaction details to their former phone numbers that had been reassigned, thus “opening a dangerous window for fraudulent activities.”

The joint committee is to submit its report within four weeks for further legislative action.

THIS is even as the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), yesterday, confirmed its 15,000 National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment centres across the federation.

In a statement, the agency added that there are over 150 centres in 40 countries abroad.

The revelation comes on heels of the Federal Government’s directive to all telecommunications operators to restrict unlinked SIMs from making outbound calls.

The NCC had said 125 million subscribers had submitted their NINs for verification, leaving over 72.77 million others on the receiving end of the government’s order.

Already, subscribers with one complaint or the other, especially those whose SIMs were barred after linkage, have continued to bombard NIMC offices and telecoms service outlets nationwide.

Yesterday, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said the challenges some subscribers were having are not directly from mobile network operators (MNOs). They, however, appealed to the affected customers, with a promise to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.

ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, on a live programme, said the challenge had to do with backend infrastructure from NIMC, stating: “But I can categorically say we are working together to resolve the challenges.”

Also on the show, President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMs), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, appealed to the government to make exercise open-ended. He stressed that over 70 million subscribers, mainly those in the rural areas, have not been captured.

SIMILARLY, rights activist, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, has urged the government to lift the barring order on unlinked SIMs.

According to the lawyer, the move would check undue hardship on Nigerians pending the determination of his case.

Omirhobo, in a letter to the Federal Government, routed via the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said: “I find the action of the FG very disturbing and out of line with the tenets of rule of law taking into account the fact that | have two pending public interest cases on the above subject matter against her in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/87/2021 between Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo (suing for himself and the Nigerian public) Vs. the Federal Government of Nigeria & 10 Ors pending before the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division and Appeal No: CA/ABJ/CV/845/2021 between Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo (suing for himself and the Nigerian public) Vs. The Federal Government Of Nigeria & 3 Ors pending before the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division.”

He added: “The fact that the subject matter surrounding your order is sub judice makes it incompetent and contemptuous of the court of law as you have gone as far as pre-empting the court on the outcome of the said cases and thereby foisting a fait accompli on the court.”

Omirhobo noted that the barring is an order in contempt of the court of law and out of line with the rule of law.