REGISTRATION OF SUBSCRIBERS IDENTITY MODULE CARDS AND NATIONAL SECURITY: ISSUES AND PROSPECTS
1. The peace of Westphalia heralds the modern concept of national security as a philosophy of upholding a stable nation state. However, threats to national security have since evolved from being state-centric; because non-state actors can pose just as great a danger as foreign government. For instance, what was once a device used for habitual phone calls, is now viewed by many Americans as a national security concern.
2. India and Dubai recently blocked the use of blackberry services on account of national security. In Africa, Somali pirates utilize mobile phones to communicate ransom demands for kidnapped victims. Cell phones were also used to ignite and coordinate protests in Mozambique over food price escalation.
3. Nigeria as a major market for Telecommunication service in Africa is not without its own share of the problem. Subscribers are known to acquire; use and dispose of cellular phone's Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card without trace, especially after a crime has been committed. These emerging threats of mobile phone related crimes to national security, consequently informed this research.
4. The purpose of this paper therefore, is to discuss registration of SIM card and its implications on national security. It will conceptualize registration of SIM card and national security, and establish their relationship. The paper will give an overview; look at issues and prospects, before proffering strategies for SIM card registration in Nigeria. The period covered by this paper, is from 2001-2010; being the period Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) was introduced in Nigeria till date.
5. The aim of this paper is to discuss SIM card registration and its implications on national security in Nigeria, with a view to making recommendations.
6. It is desirable at this point to define SIM card registration and National Security. The two variables are defined below.
7. SIM Card Registration. The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) defines SIM card registration as the process of recording and verifying personal details of a subscriber by a communications service provider. Such details shall include the phone number, name, date of birth, gender, address, Identification Document used, including the national identity card or any other acceptable identification document e.g. a passport. This definition is far reaching enough, and is thus adopted for this paper.
8. National Security. Trager sees national security as "having as its objectives the creation of national and international political conditions favorable to the protection or extension of vital national values". This definition left out fundamental institutions, and it is therefore discarded. Peterson and Sebenius view national security as preserving a society "with its fundamental institutions and values intact." This definition is generally most central and is therefore, adopted for this paper.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SIM CARDS REGISTRATION AND NATIONAL SECURITY.
9. SIM card registration is aimed at safeguarding the public against acts of insecurity including the widespread threats posed by terrorism; drug trafficking, money laundering, and extortion that are opposed to national security. Perpetrators of these crimes were hitherto difficult to trace because SIM cards were unregistered. Assigning an identity to prepaid SIM cards and tracking their use would enable the police and intelligence agencies to intercept and respond timely to criminal communications.
10. National security therefore depends on SIM card registration in Nigeria, because SIM card registration would make it easy for security agencies to track mobile phone related crimes.
OVERVIEW OF SIM CARDS REGISTRATION AND NATIONAL SECURITY IN NIGERIA
11. Global usage of cellular phones, has transformed lives in Africa, where fixed telephone infrastructure is severely limited. The technology is now a veritable communication tool in the hands of the less privileged.
12. In Nigeria and elsewhere, criminals unfortunately, have continued to commit heinous crimes with mobile phones. Consequent upon which, the National Communication Commission (NCC) directed that from 1 May 2010, all SIM-based telephone subscribers should register their personal data with service providers.
ISSUES OF REGISTRATION OF SUBSCRIBER’S IDENTITY CARDS AND NATIONAL SECURITY IN NIGERIA
13. There are copious views on the SIM card registration in Nigeria. The major issues are elaborated below.
14. Criminal Application of Mobile Phone. NCC confirmed 74,074,793 GSM users in Nigerians as at August 2010. However, the kidnap of journalists, pupils and youth corpers in Abia State has expectedly drawn the flak of the public. This has renewed calls for effective crime control strategies to tackle the scourge of insecurity in Nigeria. Among the crime reduction techniques being considered, SIM card registration continues to gain currency. It was therefore right to register this population, with a view to advancing the nation’s security.
15. Identity Problems. Documentation for verification is central to the success of this exercise. However, credible data collection could be jeopardized for lack of valid documentation. National identity card, and authentic voters register have not been well executed, and national censor figures are often contested in Nigeria. Service Providers (SPs) could therefore, ensure that biometric data of subscribers are efficiently authenticated.
16. Poor Management. NCC has established some form of ineptitude on the registration of SIM cards in Nigeria. For instance, the N64.5 billion proposed by NCC for SIM cards registration was queried by the Legislature. The Lawmakers equally refute NCC’s claim; contending that the responsibility to register SIM cards in Nigeria rests with the SPs. NCC’s publicity is equally not far reaching enough; as subscribers in the rural areas are not keyed-in yet into the exercise. These are issues that could mar or delayed the exercise.
PROSPECTS OF REGISTRATION OF SIM CARD IN NIGERIA AND NATIONAL SECURITY
17. Notwithstanding raised issues, there is still hope. The outlook on the future of SIM cards registration, and national security in Nigeria will be discussed below.
18. Huge Market Potential. Appendix 1 provides an analysis of aggregate subscribers’ data from 1999-2009. It gives clear graphical data of market share of some SPs as at June 2009. The sector also grew from about $50m in 1999 to over $12 billion by December 2007. Irrespective of the odds, the huge market opportunity gives hope that the SPs would comply with extant directives on SIM card registration accordingly.
19. Public Enlightenment. The NCC and the SPs have embarked on public awareness and registration of subscribers. The awareness campaign, though not far reaching; still gives hope that the exercise is on the right course.
20. Biometric Data. Biometric data assortment embarked on by some service providers, would assuage fears about identity theft. Data collected would also boost data bank on Nigerians; enhance national security, and aid long term national planning.
STRATEGIES FOR ACHIEVING REGISTRATION OF SIM CARD AND NATIONAL SECURITY IN NIGERIA
21. Having looked at the issues, this section proffers strategies to achieve registration of SIM card and national security in Nigeria. These are elaborated below.
22. Legislation on SIM Cards Registration. Policy inconsistency constitutes a major fear of this paper to SIM cards registration in Nigeria. In this light, Legislatures should dwell primarily on preventing the reversal of this policy. They should equally ensure, that data protection bill is passed, such that information collected shall only be used for specific purposes, and to the extent permitted by the law. The 2 Bills should be passed before the 2011elections.
23. Mobile Phone Tracking (MPT). MPT would locate a suspect ever before his or her identity is known. Thus, it is a strategy capable of busting on-going crimes and would boost SIM card registration and enhance national security if introduced. Thus, Legislature should pass a Bill that would compel SPs to integrate tracking software into existing network immediately.
24. Time Frame. The NCC should give a firm deadline for the registration exercise especially because of the 2011 elections. Legislature should put the law in place that will require service providers to suspend service latest by the end of December 2010, for subscribers that did not registered their SIM card.
25. This paper set out to discuss SIM card registration and its implications on national security in Nigeria. It established relationship between the two variables, and identifies that the directive would fight mobile phone related crimes, and boost national security.
26. The paper opined on the need to legislate on the SIM card registration and data protection Bills before the coming elections. It proffers, passing a Bill that would compel SPs to integrate tracking software into existing network before the 2011 elections. Finally, the paper submitted that National Assembly should legislate; and put in place a law that will require SPs to suspend service before the 2011 elections, for subscribers that did not registered their SIM card.
27. It is recommended that:
a. National Assembly should legislate and pass the SIM card registration and data protection Bills, before the 2011 elections.
b. Legislature should pass a Bill that would compel SPs to integrate tracking software into existing network before the 2011 elections.
c. National Assembly should put the law in place that will require SPs to suspend service latest by the end of December 2010, for subscribers that did not register their SIM card.