By Odunewu Segun
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai has identified the continued use and availability of unregistered SIMs as one of the main stumbling block hindering the effective tracking of criminals.
Recall that NCC had in October 2015, fined MTN the sum of N1.04 trillion for its refusal to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards on its network.
NCC had fixed a penalty of N200,000 for a single infraction on SIM card deactivation and it was discovered that MTN had 5.2 million infractions, which was the number of invalid SIM cards that were not deactivated on the MTN network, which amounted to N1.04 trillion.
The registration of SIM cards started in the year 2010, the initial phase of this project was handled by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). However, NCC took over these operations because the service providers could not meet up with the six months earmarked by NCC. The registration by NCC started in March 2011 and it was anchored by seven consultants.
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 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.
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He these SIM cards are registered with phony names, untraceable addresses or even unrecognizable 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.”
He also said the 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.
“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.