In a bid to correct some misconception and promote peace in the country, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami has said only security institutions are empowered to request the bio data of any SIM card used in committing crimes including kidnapping.
Speaking at the launch of the Strategic Vision Implementation Plan 2021 – 2025, yesterday, Pantami disclosed that it is not the right of any individual, NCC or supervising minister to request for the identity of the SIM Card number.
Pantami while referring to the request for bio-data information sent to him by groups and individuals, said granting such a request was beyond his purview as a minister.
While expressing support and commendation of the military in the fight against banditry and terrorism, the minister explained that criminals use the phones of their victims to make contacts.
The Minister however educated members of the public on the right step to take on crimes carried out with SIM Card.
According to him, when something happens and phone number is involved, the duty of people affected is to transmit that phone number to the police or the Department of State Services (DSS) for necessary action.”
“If somebody is kidnapped, it is not your right to write to NCC, the supervisory minister or ministry to request for the identity of the number. When something happens and a phone number is involved, your function is to transmit that SIM Card number to security agencies like the police or DSS, go to them to state what happened and they know the procedure which they communicate to the NCC or technology agencies, it is their mandate to provide what is required.
“If we say that anybody can approach us for biodata of any SIM card, definitely, it is going to be abused, it is because of this that it is only the security institutions that have the power to ask for that information,” he said.
While noting that phone conversations and phone numbers are confidential constitutionally as stipulated in Section 38 and 39 of the Nigeria Constitution, he stated that it is the Cybercrime 2015 Act and subsidiary legislation of the commission that allows the government to provide bio-data of individuals through “what is called intercept and it can be done when security agencies present prima facie case.
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He said: “Today, criminals mount roadblocks on the highways and seize telephones from travellers, sometimes they use the phones to contact their relatives. When it is presented, you will discover that the SIM card information is of the kidnapped victims but not the kidnappers.”
Further the Minister said: “When there is any security challenge, banditry and negotiations, people will complain about the telecommunication sector. Sometimes, there are issues that are not for public discussion. I will not in any way say them here. I will rather commend the efforts of security agencies for what they are doing to secure the country and pray God to make them more successful, so that we will have absolute peace and stability in the country.”
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Speaking on NCC’s Global Connect Podcast, Pantami said the initiative is a creative and innovative idea that would be used to disseminate information about what government is doing in the sector to Nigerians.
He said: “One of the challenges being faced by NCC is poor perception. Many citizens do not understand the work of NCC, and any problem they have with mobile phones, the complaint is about NCC. And at times, it is extended to the minister who is not a regulator.
“If someone is having a network challenge, they will complain to the NCC, forgetting that the challenges are multisectoral and that if there is more power supply, it will affect the quality of service and if there is vandalisation, it will affect the quality of service.
“To operate the telecommunication sector, over 32,000 power generators are being used daily. With the efforts being made by President Muhammadu Buhari, especially the most recent efforts by Siemens, and many more, we have started seeing improvement in power supply.”