Officials from Nigeria’s communications industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), on Friday arrested more illegal SIM card sellers and successfully tracked down several unsuspecting subscribers who had purchased the cards at exorbitant prices in the nation’s federal capital Abuja.
The officials impounded the machines used by the sellers to pre-register the SIM cards. In all, NCC sealed off four offices belonging to Correspondence Ltd, Zeph Associates, Glovic Communications and Connect Ground Towers, all located in Abuja.
While commenting on the latest arrests, the officer in charge of media relations at the NCC Mr. Mouka said the commission is standing by its earlier position on the issue of sale or possession of pre-registered SIM cards which are both against the law in Nigeria.
“The seller, user and an abetting operator would be liable. So, if you notice sale or use of registered SIM card, [discretely] report the matter to the police because it is a criminal activity and those caught during the exercise would be tried for the offence,” Mouka said.
Market surveys, however, still show that despite the latest arrests vendors of the SIM cards are undeterred by the efforts of the commission. In Wuse market Abuja and Computer Village in Lagos, several vendors were found with large stocks of the pre-registered lines.
The cards are sold to users at exorbitant prices so the vendors can maximise profits, the NCC officials said.
One of the vendors who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Unlike the regular unregistered cards that are sold for N50 or N100 depending on the network, pre-registered lines have an average price of N500.”
To prevent being apprehended by officers of the commission, the vendors are now extremely careful. “We look well before we sell,” said, Andrew, a vendor at the popular Computer Village in Lagos.
HumanIPO late last month reported that the NCC would leave “no stone unturned” in ensuring members of the public are adequately informed about the illegal SIMs.
“We’ve been informing Nigerians about the illegitimacies of buying pre-registered SIM. The identities of those who register them are not shown on the SIM cards. In the past, we went after those hawking the SIMs on the streets, now we are on the next phase; we are going after the chain that supplies these machines,” Efosa Idehen, the head of enforcement at the NCC, said.
NCC has kicked off a series of campaigns across the nation, which the head of enforcement said would help “rid the system of the fraudulent people who register SIM and sell them to unsuspecting buyers”.
The law, Ideye said, would decide the fate of those arrested. “We are taking them before the law. We are not saying they are guilty, the law will decide that,” he said.