Nigeria plans SIM card registration to reduce criminal activity

In the bid to close in on criminal activity among mobile-phone subscribers, Nigerian officials and members of the telecom industry agreed Thursday on the need for immediate nationwide registration of existing and prospective SIM cards for prepaid mobile phones.

Dave Imoko, head of the Nigerian Communications Commission’s public affairs, disclosed the information after a meeting between the NCC, major telecom operators, and security and intelligence agencies in Abuja.

Registration will effectively ban the hawking of SIMs (Subscriber Identification Modules), except in cases where the seller is connected to an operator’s database through a PC or PDA (personal digital assistant), Imoko explained.

NCC hosted the consultative forum at the insistence of security agencies that have complained that criminal activity among prepaid mobile users has become a source of concern as such users are not asked for identification upon purchase, he said.

Prepaid mobile-phone operators use pay-as-you-go or top-up GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile services and can currently buy their SIMs from street corners and shops without proper identification.

“Their postpaid counterparts usually meet stringent identification conditions that make them traceable,” Imoko said. “But with the new development, all users of telephone services in Nigeria must be identifiable and traceable.”

Registration will begin as soon as the Action Committee — comprised of NCC officials, operators, security operatives, media and other relevant bodies — finalizes its report, said Imoko. The committee is expected to present its report within four weeks.

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