Industry calls for SIM card accreditation in Nigeria

LAGOS, NIGERIA – The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), an umbrella body of about 161 telecommunications firms registered and operating in the country, has called for an accreditation process for Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) packs nationwide.

The move has become necessary due to security issues, ATCON President Emmanuel Ekuwem told reporters at a press conference last week in Lagos. Lack of information on SIM card dealers and holders has made it impossible for security agencies to conclude telecom fraud investigations.

Hawking SIM cards on the streets is a security risk because criminals can simply buy them, use them to commit crimes and then discard them, according to ATCON. Accreditation is needed because security officials cannot identify the people who make calls or send SMSes that may undermine national security, the group says.

There is no way to capture data on SIM-card street hawkers or their clients, Ekuwem said. The accreditation of SIM cards “will greatly aid criminal investigations,” he said.

Photographic identification of SIM card buyers helps control crime, he said, adding that it is no longer news that travellers abroad are asked for identification papers when buying SIM packs.

While confirming that accreditation would put a stop to hawking SIM cards on the street, it also would create different kinds of jobs, involving data warehousing, data mining and storage area networks, Ekuwem said.

The proposal was to have been be a key issue at the ATCON annual general meeting scheduled for yesterday in Lagos.

ATCON is pushing for registered dealer channels for SIM packs, to allow dealers to capture either the physical photo of the buyer or a photocopy of the buyer’s international passport or national identification card data, in addition to basic bio data and contact address information.

ATCON further canvassed for a moratorium of six months to enable existing subscribers and owners of SIM cards to get accredited by telecom operators.

“Only accredited phone numbers should exist in the operators’ subscriber database afterward,” Ekuwem said. ATCON also suggested that the information in the database should be highly classified, with passwords needed to check access to subscribers’ information.

“Only appropriate law enforcement agencies should be allowed access to the database through a password and a multilaterally agreed access due process,” Ekuwem declared.