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Burutai indicts NCC, decries rising use of unregistered SIM cards

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Burutai, on Monday in Abuja took a swipe on the regulatory intelligence of the telecoms industry by indicting the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for not doing much to end the use of unregistered SIM cards in the country.

According to the Army chief, the development remains a key failure on the side of the regulator especially in the use of digital and mobile forensics by the Nigeria military in the fight against terrorism, kidnapping and other national threats.

Business Hilights recalls that since the trended sanction on MTN Nigeria for not deactivating about 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards, there have been reports of existing unregistered SIMs still in use by criminals across the country.

The army chief spoke at the opening of the 6th International Digital, Mobile and Computer Forensics Conference and Training Expo organised by the Computer Forensics Institute of Nigeria (CFIN).

In his lead paper, ‘Digital, Mobile and Computer Forensics as a Tool in Fighting Terrorism and Internal Threats’, Gen. Buratai averred that military investigators were able to get unregistered SIM cards from vendors last week without difficulty.

Represented by Brig.-Gen. Samuel Adebayo, the COAS further identified improperly registered SIM cards in use in the country as a challenge.

He pointed out that the issue of continued use of unregistered SIMs is hobbling identity tracking, especially in the case of kidnappings, terrorism and other forms of criminal acts in the country almost an impossible task.

He recalled that “In some instances, these SIM cards are registered with phony names, untraceable addresses or even unrecognisable photographs.

“For those who are involved in investigation of those kinds of things, when you go to the service provider, you will discover that the data on some people is blank; there is no face attached to it.

“In some cases, the users live in the bush or hills, but registered the SIM cards with addresses that don’t exist because the man who registered them allowed such a thing without any method of confirmation.

“So, when it comes to the analysis, you discover that you are hitting a brick wall because to do a link analysis becomes very difficult or unfortunately impossible.

“I believe there is the need to raise this issue because as at a week ago, we were still able to get some SIM cards that are unregistered from vendors without any problem, and they are still working till now”.

According to Burutai, other key challenges of Digital, Mobile and Computer Forensics cut across inadequate personnel to handle cases, and rapid advancement in evolution of mobile phones and devices with huge cost implications for the military in the war against criminality and ending insurgency in the North East.

Efforts to get reactions from the NCC failed as calls put to the Director Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo was not answered.

However, an official of the Commission who pleaded anonymity said “From time to time, NCC had been raiding spots where unregistered SIMs cards are being sold and networks had been regularly warned on sanctions”.