The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says a total of 95.7 million SIM cards being used by subscribers were not properly registered.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has kicked off the second phase of its subscriber identity module (SIM) registration verification and compliance audit.

The commission said in a statement in Abuja on Thursday the exercise was part of its efforts to enhance national security, ensure consumer protection, and zero tolerance for registration related infractions.

Also, the commission said the exercise would further provide assurance on the integrity of the SIM registration database and processes across all mobile network operator (MNO) platforms.

Specifically, the commission said the audit will monitor operators’ strict adherence to the technical and other specifications for subscribers.

The NCC’s Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations of 2011 and the Technical Standards and Specifications issued by the commission in 2011 spell out the required specifications.

The commission said the audit will not affect the ongoing “backend verification and scrubbing” of SIM registration data already submitted by MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9Mobile and Mtel.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Umar Danbatta, said the NCC is very sensitive to the subscriber registration database as a veritable tool by security and law enforcement agencies.

The SIM registration database is used in detecting and apprehending criminals involved in crimes like kidnapping, financial crimes, armed robberies, banditry, cattle rustling and other crimes leveraged on easy access to the national telecoms network.

“We are determined to continue to ensure all SIM cards are traceable to their real owners with the least effort, ” the NCC said.

According to the EVC, the verification exercise is a continuation of the NCC’s regulatory interventions to establish a clean and credible SIM registration database in the country.

In August 2015, the mobile network operators were given a deadline to disconnect SIMs found not to be fully compliant with registration requirements.

Operators that failed to comply were issued various sanctions, including imposition of huge fines.

Also, a SIM Registration Task Force was set up in 2017 to further harmonise registration practices across all networks.

The work of the task force culminated in the recent establishment of a joint Industry Working Group comprising senior representatives of the NCC, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and MNOs.

That Working Group was mandated to harmonize the subscriber registration process with the National Identity Card Registration Project.

“Currently, verification and scrubbing of SIM Registration data is ongoing to ensure the integrity of data submitted to the Commission by the MNOs, before cleaned-up data are fed into the central database warehoused by NIMC.

“The audit is a natural next step to ensure not only are the data already submitted fully compliant, but that operators maintained the highest standards of registration practices across all touch-points.

“This will ensure subscriber data the operators collect continue to serve the national security and other interests for which subscriber registration was mandated”, Danbatta said.

“Our objectives are to carry our quality assurance on the integrity of all aspects of the subscriber registration process and to demonstrate zero tolerance for any deviation from laid-down processes by any industry player, no matter how seemingly minor.

The EVC allayed fears by consumers about disruption of service to law abiding consumers who have genuinely registered their SIMs.

He said the NCC designed the exercise in a way to gauge compliance at measured intervals using very professional tools and standards.

Determined to pursue the national interest objectives of delivering a credible database of telecoms subscribers in Nigeria, the Commission said it was working with NIMC and other stakeholders to tighten all loose ends.

“We are determined to deliver one single, credible national citizens identity database which is sorely required to fast-track the attainment of the Federal Government’s national security and reform agenda,” he said.

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