10 months after the reintroduction of the NIN-SIM registration, kidnappers still use mobile phones to perpetrate crime including negotiation for ransom payment. Cases of kidnapping including schoolchildren are in the increase
Clearly, the NIN-SIM policy introduced by the federal ministry of communications and digital economy was but a ruse, waste of time and never really intended to succeed. To all intents and purposes, the policy looks to be an attempt to deceive Nigerians and divert attention.
Cases of Kidnapping for ransom have increased astronomically since the reintroduction of the NIN-SIM policy instead of the reverse.
Clearly, the so-called NIN-SIM policy has failed. The latest indication of the glaring failure of the NIN-SIM policy is the fact that so far, two states, Zamfara and Katsina have shut down network fully and partly respectively.
Recall that last year, the federal ministry of communications and digital economy told Nigerians that the SIM-NIN policy will stop kidnapping and other crimes using mobile phones, but it now had to shut down network totally in Zamfara state and partly in Katsina state through its agency, the National communications commission (NCC). During the celebrated reintroduction of the NIN-SIM registration by the minister of communications and digital economy Dr Isa Pantami last year, people were subjected to stress and tribulations amid COVID- 19 pandemic. They queued over long stretches and risked contacting COVID- 19, brazed the scorching sun to get their NIN, all for nothing! Only to learn that it was all deceit and official gangsterism by the authorities who should know better. The lives of many innocent people who made serious sacrifices during the NIN-SIM commotion last year just to get their NIN for linkage to their SIM may never be the same again.
If indeed the so-called NIN-SIM policy has worked, why would network shut down completely? If the policy is working, there will not be any need to shut down network completely as offenders will be tracked easily. It suffices to note that albeit shutting down network to convert insecurity is good, it has caused several economic distortions especially for people who depend on mobile phone network for their businesses.
Ab-initio, the federal ministry of communications and digital economy knows full well that they don’t have the capacity to fully and successfully implement the NIN-SIM policy for the following reasons:
1. The federal ministry of communications and digital economy has NO ACCESS to TelCos subscribers database. MTN, GLO etc will not release the classified information of their subscribers to the federal ministry of communications and digital economy because of data protection legal implications. Clearly, the agreement between the Nigerian government and the TelCos MTN, GLO etc should have included a provision that will give unfettered access for the federal government to the subscribers database but clearly this was not included in the agreement.
2. Currently, the National identity management commission NIMC which the federal ministry of communications and digital economy hijacked from the federal ministry of interior, has no national database of all Nigerians.
Nigeria has no database of its citizens despite the promise by the federal ministry of communications and digital economy that one will be ready.
Since the federal ministry of communications and digital economy has no access to subscribers database with MTN, GLO and other network providers, how are they going to successfully implement the NIN-SIM policy?
ABSENCE OF DIGITALISATION AT THE GRASSROOTS
Available figures indicated that between 90-95% of the cases of kidnapping in the North West political zone (where kidnapping is pervasive) are perpetrated at the grassroots where there is near absence of digital infrastructure.
In these villages that suffer most from kidnapping, you can hardly find people with smart phones. Illiteracy in some of these communities ravaged by kidnappers is very high. Even the very few that may have smart phones may not have the skill to use the USSD and link their NIN to their SIM.
To make matters worse, the federal ministry of communications and digital economy has not conducted any sensitisation programme on the NIN-SIM policy.
Almost 90% of activity on NIN-SIM is in the cities. Very little at the grassroots where most kidnapping incidents take place.
The practicable and realistic solution is to BLOCK ALL UNREGISTERED SIM CARDS IMMEDIATELY.
One of the key enablers of kidnapping is the open roadside sale of SIM cards. Anybody including kidnappers can buy as many SIM cards as possible by the ROADSIDE.
All SIM cards should be linked to the user through his/her biometrics such that any calls through that SIM can be traced to the user.
FRIDAY RELATIONSHIP: The federal ministry of communications and digital economy allegedly has a Friday relationship with the service providers MTN, GLO etc hence they would not want to order the blockage of the unregistered SIM cards even if to avoid incurring the wrath of their ‘friends’ (the service providers MTN, GLO etc).
The network providers MTN, GLO will not like the blockage of SIM cards for reasons of profitability but they need to understand that this issue involves human lives and the continuous use of unregistered SIM cards promotes kidnapping, terrorism and related crimes.
The use of unregistered SIM cards is a threat to national security and the earlier the federal ministry of communications and digital economy takes a decisive action against it, the better for the sovereignty and corporate existence of Nigeria.
DR ABUBAKAR ALKALI – Convener, Movement for a New Nigeria (MNN)