NCC raids Lagos in fight against sale of pre-registered SIMs
•Arrests peddlers, warns operators, agents on menace
The Nigerian communications Commission (NCC), has warned Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) against hiring agents that will put them into trouble through the peddling of pre-registered Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards. NCC gave this warning in Lagos, at the weekend, after a three-day raid on some identified hot spots for the sale of pre-registered SIM cards. The raid led to the arrest of some suspects, including an elderly woman.
The raid came three weeks after The Guardian had reported how MNOs agents were spotted selling pre-registered SIM cards, after several warnings from NCC, in areas including Ikeja, Ikotun, Yaba, Airport road and Abuja, among others.Head, Enforcement Unit of NCC, Salisu Abdu, addressing journalists, admitted that the menace is huge, ‘’but our fight against pre-registered SIM cards scam is yielding results.’’
Abdu noted that there have also been several complaints also from the office of the National Security Adviser about the prevalence of pre-registered SIM cards at some locations in Lagos, “as we moved to some identified areas.’’According to him, “we visited Computer village, markets in Ikorodu and we also in Bariga with the objective of identifying where this sale of pre-registered SIM cards is on-going. Fortunate enough, it is only in Computer village we were able to buy only one Airtel SIM card from a mobile agent.
“On the second day of the exercise, with the help of the Lagos Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), some arrests were made. We went to two locations. We went to Alaba International market, and Orile market along Badagry Expressway. In Alaba market, we purchased a pre-registered SIM card from an agent, a Globacom agent and in Orile we found pre-registered SIM cards on a market woman, who, in fact, was seated with a lot of SIM cards being sold to members of the public. It’s that same cards that criminals are using to commit a lot of crime and you can now understand why it had sometimes been difficult for security operatives in the course of their investigations of criminal offences to identify people who have actually committed such crimes.
“The last day of the raid of phone markets in Lagos was concentrated largely on the Saka Tinubu market in Victoria Island where two more persons who were found selling pre-registered SIM cards were picked up by the combined team of NSCDC and NCC officials.’’Abdu said investigations are currently on-going to know where the agents are getting the pre-registered SIM cards. “I’m sure the old woman and some of the persons arrested are not the ones doing the registration, there must be somebody who is supplying the SIM cards to them. We will need to find out the people who are behind it.”
When asked if there could be any secret involvement of some service providers in the pre-registered SIM card scam, Abdu responded: “They are, in some respects, because we have been trying to inform them that most of these challenges are coming from registration agents. So, we try as much as possible to warn them to ensure that they checkmate their registration agents. At the end of the day, whichever SIM card we find on the street, we sanction them as well. Even in this case, we will look into all the SIM cards we recovered in this exercise and ensure that we communicate necessary sanctions to the mobile operators.”
The Guardian investigations showed that competition among the operators was a major factor fuelling the menace. But also, some Nigerians, ignorant of the dangers they are courting, prefer to simply buy pre-registered cards, rather than spend a few minutes inputting their details into a computer.The NCC viewed the sale or use of pre-registered SIM cards as an offense attracting a fine or jail term or both. An indicted telecom company risks a N200, 000 fine for every pre-registered card.
In 2017, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta hosted a stakeholders’ meeting of top-notch officials of telecom network providers at the commission’s Headquarters in Abuja where he expressed displeasure at the persistence of improperly registered and pre-registered SIM cards arising from networks of telecom companies operating in the country.
The commission subsequently launched a nationwide television commercial in major national television networks and local television stations in all the states of the federation in March this year to sensitize telecom subscribers on the dangers of pre-registered SIM cards, an effort that was followed up with regular enforcement exercises across major telecom markets in the country.
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