Telcos, subscribers seek NCC’s SIM reg requirements review


Telcos and subscribers have complained bitterly about the strict subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration requirements by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Particularly, they complained about the rigorous process they have to pass through when trying to retrieve lost SIM cards from their service providers.

Subscribers, who spoke during the 81st Edition of Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP) in Lagos at the weekend, said the regulator should do something about the strict guidelines, which are hurting them.

A subscriber, who identified herself as Angela, complained about her experience with her service provider two months ago. According to her, her mobile phone was stolen and she promptly notified her service provider about the development, asking the carrier to block the line from making or receiving calls because she did not want criminals to use her phone number to make calls.

“After getting the line blocked, I went to the customer service centre of my telco for SIM swap. I was completely shocked by the very hard and fast rules spelt out for me to meet. I was asked to name three numbers I usually call, present an identity card (either a valid drivers’ licence, international passport, national identity card or a permanent voter’s card (PVC). As at the time of making efforts to retrieve my SIM, aside my international passport, which was with the South African embassy for visa application, I also had my staff identity card. After deposing to an affidavit that the SIM card belonged to me and that it was stolen, my service provider insisted that I should present my great grand-father death certificate, who died four decades ago.

“The most frustrating aspect of the issue was that efforts by officials of the Public Affairs Department to intervene proved abortive. These requirements are too hard and fast in a dynamic industry,” she said on the sideline at the forum.

Reacting at a panel discussion, which had representatives of the telcos and the NCC, the telcos lamented,  had written to the regulator about subscribers’  complaints over the issue, but had not got any reprieve.

The telcos blamed the pains subscribers go through on the SIM registration requirements of the NCC.

A Deputy Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, at NCC, Ephraim Nwokenneya, explained that some unscrupulous elements leveraged the loopholes in the system, impersonating people and committing fraud.

Also speaking, NCC’s Director, Licensing and Authorisation, Ms Funlola Akiyode, said the regulator received a letter from the telcos, but said the NCC will look at the issue, arguing that the regulator will not rush to change the rules.

She said the fact that the telcos had written would not make the regulator change the rules overnight, insisting that the regulator is proactive and is abreast with developments in the sector.

Starting in 2007, the NCC begun the process for SIM registration, but the process only got finalised in 2011 with the enactment of SIM Registration Regulations.

Key objective of the exercise is to create a central database of all users of telecoms services in Nigeria, regardless of medium. Other objectives include facilitating know your customer (KYC) for adjacent agencies, such as Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and others.

NCC’s actions, Akiyode said, were hinged on assisting law enforcement and security agencies to fight the growing level of insurgency in the Northeast and criminality (in the South), noting that some subscribers abused anonymity to embarrass, defraud or carry out illegitimate activities.

“Unregistered SIMs have been implicated in acts of kidnapping, financial crimes (419) and others while registration/location information have been used successfully to track down criminals. It was also discovered that SIMs can be used to detonate explosive devices,” she said.

NCC’s SIM Registration Regulations set forth very clear requirements for subscriber registration. For biometric information: four fingerprints; and clear facial image of the subscriber collected in accordance with the agreed registration specifications.

Personal information:  full names;   mother’s maiden name; gender; date of birth; residential address;  nationality; state of origin;  occupation and  contact details.

Proof of identity: any of the following must be sighted: National Identity Card, International Passport; Driver’s License; Letter of authentication by traditional ruler/community leader affixed with passport photograph (in rural areas).

Data quality must be in accordance with registration specifications in digital image standards, data dictionary and others.

Confidentiality of registration information: personal information not to be released without subscribers’ prior written consent, or transferred abroad without NCC’s prior written consent.

Represented at the event by the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, Sunday Dare, NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umar Dmabatta, said the telecoms consumer remained central to the commission, adding that it informed the declaration of the year as that of the telecoms consumer, which is consistent with the eight-point agenda set out in 2015 when he mounted the saddle.

“The number two and six items of the agenda are the core drivers of the NCC year of telecoms consumer initiative. While the number two of the agenda addresses improved quality of service, item six is concerned with protection of and empowerment of the telecoms consumers.

“It must be emphasised that all NCC initiatives such as SIM card registration, mobile number portability, broadband policy implementation, development of 2442 and 622 short codes as well as various consumers awareness campaigns are to ensure consumer satisfaction and protection.

“The NCC has declared 2017 the Year of Telecom Consumer. The focus of the declaration are: continuous improvement of quality; ubiquitous and affordable service to the consumer; increasing our consultative engagement with the consumer to always service the needs of the consumer positively; ensuring that services yield the result of improving consumer experience by supporting better access to life changing and improvement opportunities, access to governance services, business and career development, quality education and social engagement; increasing consumer information and education as well as consumer-centric regulatory governance and policy administration,” Dambatta said.

A short video vox pop conducted by the regulator and played at the event showed that many telecoms consumers are still far from getting the quality of service they expected from their service providers. While a subscriber alleged that his service provider gives only data but no service. “If I get a call and I want to pick it, I will just hear message,” she said.

A female National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Enitan, lamented very poor data quality while another, Esther, lamented poor service quality at Okelewo, Abeokuta. Other subscribers, Jonathan, Supo, Ajewole and Olanrewaju were also not happy with the current tariff regime, which they claimed is too expensive. They urged the NCC to set a timeline for improved service  stiffer punishment for nonperforming telco. According to Olanrewaju, who resides in Akure, Ondo State, most text messages from the thelcos were  unsolicited ones.

While some subscribers lauded NCC regulatory intervention, others want it to do more in creating awareness about 2442 and 622 short codes, whose existence they claimed ignorance of.


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