Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali-Pantami, has vowed to impose heavy fines on any telecom operator that fails to provide bio-data of anyone who commits a crime using their SIM cards in the country.
Recall that on September 12, the minister had directed the Telecom regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to block the over 9million pre-registered SIM cards in circulation in the country, until the users present themselves for bio-data capturing.
The minister, while giving updates on the directive, on Monday at the ongoing GITEX in Dubai – United Arab Emirates, disclosed that all the pre-registered SIM cards in the country had been blocked by the Telecom operators.
Mr Pantami said: “Based on the report they (telecom operators) have presented to me, which has been with me to date, all the remaining pre-registered SIMs cards had been blocked.
“The next line of action is, when a crime is committed we would contact them to give us the full details of the owner of that SIM card.
“Any telecom operator that fails to provide the details and authentic information and biodata of the owners of a SIM that has been used to commit a crime would be fined because the responsibility of each and every responsible government is the protection of lives and property,” Mr Pantami stressed.
“In our 1999 constitution as amended, under section 4 under 2B, welfare and protection of lives and property should be our responsibility.
“We are the aides of President Muhammadu Buhari and part of his agenda and promises during the campaign was the provision of security to Nigerians and we have keyed in this as our priority to make sure we safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians by blocking these SIMs.
“However, we believe that blocking these SIMs comes with some challenges. It may affect their revenue, at least, in a short-term frame. But what is most important is that the government doesn’t look at revenue while neglecting the lives and property of its citizens.
“Our priority as government is to make sure that we contribute our effort towards making Nigerians to be very safe. When that is done, then we could talk about revenue and the economy. When there are no security people are even running away from their property and resources.
“When I came on board, I was worried when I discovered that 90% of crimes being committed in Nigeria involve the use of one SIM card or the others, either in preparation for the crime or in the course of negotiating the crime after committing it.
“So, how can I allow something under my supervision to compromise the security of the country? I think I would not be doing myself any fair if I allow that to continue,” the minister emphasized.