My attention was recently brought to the allegations of Christian Association of Nigeria statement asking President Buhari “What is the essence of SIM card registration if the authorities can not utilize it to find these killers who depend on phones as a mean of interaction to do their criminalities?”
I will like to bring the attention of the Christian Association of Nigeria to one of the major breakthrough of this administration under the most performing Minister of the Decade, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, the Hon Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.
It will be recalled that Dr Pantami while addressing the Executive Councils of both the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), who paid a courtesy visit to the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy Headquarters, Abuja directed telcos and NCC to blacklist 9.2 million pre-registered SIM Cards.
Dr Pantami asserted that President Muhammadu Buhari is a result-oriented individual, stressing that his modest achievement as the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) elevated him to the post he occupies today on merit.
After the Minister’s directive, it will be recalled that the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy had cleared about 9.2million unregistered and preregistered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards hitherto in the country within three weeks!
During his appearance before the Senate Committee on Communications at the National Assembly Abuja, Dr. Pantami said while he believes that ICT should be used to improve the security and economy of the country, the situation he met on ground was that it was being used to perpetuate insecurity.
Pantami said: “When I was appointed and assigned portfolio, by President Muhammadu Buhari, immediately I reported to the ministry and I received briefings.
“In the course of the presentation I immediately directed the NCC, looking at the security implication of unregistered SIMs or preregistered SIMs, I said we will not continue to ignore because even before I was appointed to this place , it has been worrying me that most of the crimes being committed in Nigeria, either in the process of coordination or committing SIM cards were involved.
“And I felt, whatever we do as a government, protection of lives and property of Nigerians should be our priority. Any other issue should be secondary.
“I mentioned this to them clearly that under my leadership I will not allow that to continue. If there is anything that should be our priority it is for us to make use of ICT to promote the security of Nigeria.
“But the situation I inherited, ICT was being used to compromise the security of Nigeria because people planning to make any attack or robbery, usually coordinate using SIM cards.
“When Nigerians are kidnapped, people negotiate what to be paid, using SIM cards. And I think this is something that should not be tolerated. We should not allow our platforms to be used for that.
“So I ask them immediately to go and begin or conclude audit exercise. Without audit exercise, we will not be able to know, the total number of unregistered/preregistered SIM cards.
“That figure was not available by the time I joined the Ministry and I gave them only one week to conclude that audit exercise.
“The did so and they came forward with around 9.2million preregistered, unregistered or partially registered SIMs. With this number definitely it was difficult for us to curtail any crime committed in the country.
“So I gave them another two week to announce to all Nigerians to come forward and conclude their registration. If it is incomplete, you have two weeks to complete. If it is preregistered, you need to come forward and present your bio data and all the information required to complete it. After that period the number was reduced to 2.4million.
“Then that 2.4million I gave them another one week and I said by 25th of September 2019, you should make sure that that there is no unregistered, preregistered or partially registered sim on our networks in Nigeria. All these 2.4million should either be blocked or deactivated.
“Whoever comes forward to present the necessary information then you can activate, deactivate or de-block his number. This is based on result presented to me on 26th September 2019.
“They have carried out the assignment and they presented a reporter me that as at 26th September 2019, there wasn’t any unregistered or preregistered sim being used in Nigeria.
“And I forwarded another letter to them that whenever a crime is committed, in which SIM is involved, we have informed security agencies to let us know. I will give you the number used to commit the crime and you only 60 minutes to produce the details and information with regards to that.
“And if you fail to do that definitely the operators must be sanctioned. Because this has been the agreement with them. And I will not tolerate that henceforth.
“To date I don’t have any information contrary to the directives we have given and I want to assure this committees that I know the provisions of the Section 4 Constitution which is all about the protection of life and property. That will be our priority and we want to make use of ICT to improve that.” Pantami said.
I think the Christian Association of Nigeria should rather commend the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy for taking the bull by the horn in ensuring that ALL SIM Cards in Nigeria are registered and any SIM Card linked to criminal activities are tracked within 24 hours by the security agencies in collaboration with the service providers.
Adewole Kehinde is the Publisher of Swift Reporters and Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja. [email protected]