The ongoing SIM data verification is a continuous exercise to clean up the data of already registered telecoms subscribers and harmonise them with data captured by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to create a national database, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.
The subscriber data so far captured by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), as well as data captured by other statutory agencies, are being cleaned up, verified and harmonised in accordance with the act setting up NIMC, and a directive of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management at NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare, said in an interview.
Mr. Dare said there was no iota of truth in media speculations that 95.7 million Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) data had been rendered invalid due to alleged poor deployment of technology.
Dare said, “The operators, at the point of registration, are expected to capture specific data – biometrics (picture and fingerprint), name, address, etc. Once they capture them, they put them together, and from time to time, they send them to NCC through secure electronic means.”
He explained that as NCC collected the data to the central system, it then checked and verified what had been submitted by the operators, saying this had been the process from the beginning and that it had not changed.
“We issued a Subscriber Registration Regulations in 2011 together with Registration Specifications and these have remained substantially the same since then.
“What we now have is an additional layer of verification via a presidential directive and an enabling law – that all data – collecting agencies of government should harmonise their data with NIMC – because statutorily it is only NIMC that has the power to create a national citizens’ database. So, NCC falls within the category of data collecting agencies,” he explained.
NCC said it collected SIM registration data, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) collected for drivers’ licence; Immigration collected for International Passport, among other agencies.
However, the presidential directive mandates NCC and these agencies to submit these data to NIMC.
Explaining further, Mr. Dare said: “NIMC also collects and verifies. So, it is a continuous process. Of course – even though technology is being used – there is no way you can verify and complete the processing of 160 million subscribers within a short period. And don’t forget that we had 80 million, then 90 million, then 100 million subscribers and so on… So as their data come in, we verify. That process is painstaking, it is based on technology, and it is ongoing. So the question of invalid data does not exist.”
Speaking on the validity of SIM data, Dare explained that before a SIM could be connected to any network in Nigeria, the subscriber data must be captured by the MNOs and that if any data field was missing, such a SIM card would not be activated.
“So, if the data are “invalid”, these numbers will not work. They will not connect with the network. We have the footprint of every SIM registered in this country. We are trying to verify to make sure that the accurate information is submitted.”
The commission clarified that there was no serious problems with SIM data, as the commission is working with MNOs to correct any identified gap, but that “there is no serious problem of the kind being bandied about.”
It said NIMC had a statutory duty to create a national citizens’ database which had been approved by FEC – under a presidential directive – that NCC and all data-collecting agencies should submit their data to NIMC for harmonisation.
“Don’t forget that INEC has over 88 million record of people’s data for Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) – the same way we also have data of people that have SIM cards,” he said.
Data will boost security activities
The commission said the biggest issue presently is security, but that its systems are available to support security agents in their investigations.
Dare said, “NCC has collaborated with security and law enforcement agencies on several occasions to arrest those that use their mobile numbers for advance fee fraud, or kidnapping, etc.
“Once we get requests from authorised channels, we interrogate our database – either the MTN database as resident with us, or the Glo database, and so on – we are able to get the picture of the owner of the telephone number, or we get the address and we give the details to the security people and they do the needful. They had moved swiftly in several cases to apprehend suspects and even successfully prosecuted them.”
What NCC is doing at present is a verification process to bring the data up to higher global standards for the national database. The commission said it has been passing collected information to NIMC while NIMC has been furthering cleanup of those data and adding them to the national database.