Telcos may partner NCC to fight illegal SIM card hawkers

Telcos may partner NCC to fight illegal SIM card hawkers

Tired of paying fines as sanction for selling pre-registered SIM cards, the four GSM operators in Nigeria may be turning to security operatives to help stem the tide and save them the embarrassment of having their pre-registered SIM cards openly sold by vendors. Investigations by Political Economist showed that  contrary to general opinion that pre-registered SIM cards were sold with the knowledge of telcos, the contrary appears the case. Our inquest showed that some of the telcos are mulling forging a partnership with NCC and security operatives to arrest the trend.

Recently, in furtherance of the  enforcement of the provisions of the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations 2011, the Nigerian Communications Commission  imposed fines on four mobile services operators for contravening the provisions on pre-registration of SIM Cards in Nigeria.

The fines imposed are based on the number of fully activated new SIM Cards that were either reported to the Commission or purchased in compliance monitoring and enforcement exercises conducted by the Commission, and validated by the offending network. Each of such pre-registered SIMs found attracts a penalty of N200,000 ( Two Hundred Thousand Naira).

Accordingly,   Airtel Nigeria Networks Ltd was fined the sum of N8, 600, 000 (Eight Million, Six Hundred Thousand Naira) for the availability of 43 pre-registered SIM Card during the exercise. Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service Ltd, EMTS ( Etisalat) was liable to pay a fine in the sum N5,000,000 ( Five Million for contravening on 25 pre-registered SIM Cards while Globacom Ltd was liable to a fine in the sum of  N11,000,000 ( Eleven Million)  on 55 pre-registered SIM Cards. MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd was liable to pay the sum of N29, 200,000 (Twenty Nine Million, Two Hundred Thousand Naira for contravening on 146 pre-registered SIM Cards.

The service providers were given up to seven days within which to pay the fine, failure of which attracts N500,000 ( Five Hundred Thousand) for any additional day that the contravention persists. The Commission in the notice of sanction to the service providers signed by the Director, Legal and Regulatory Services, Ms. Josephine Amuwa,  and Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Engr. Ubale Maska, said the fine is in exercise of its discretionary powers following prior warnings in April 2012 that  Network Service Providers will be liable for breaches by their Registration Centres carrying out pre-registration of the New SIM Cards for sales, since it is the providers that activate these new SIM Cards.

“Based on the report of enforcement exercises against hawkers, agents and backend suppliers of fully activated pre-registered new SIM Cards in the year 2012, and first quarter of 2013, it has been established that there is an urgent need to sanction all network operators who have not complied with the direction” the Commission said.

The Commission reminded the service providers that it had at the commencement of the SIM registration exercise project instructed that all new SIM Cards going into the distribution and sales channels must only be activated as “receive only” with a proviso that all such cards can only call emergency numbers and operators’ call centres for a period of 30 days, failure to register such SIM Cards thereafter will render such SIM cards inactive.

The commission also reiterated that the general public has been severally informed that it is illegal to sell or purchase pre-registered SIM cards, and that anyone buying or selling pre-registered SIM cards shall be prosecuted and such person or person(s) shall be liable to any crimes committed with the use of such lines.