Sim card registration? What? Why?!!?

Call me ignorant but I just stumbled across the phenomenon called “sim card registration”. The bulk of the gist is to get a working sim in Nigeria from Aug 1st you will have to register and provide your bio metric information and all that. Why? Apparently cellphones are now used as a tool to commit crime so they (the government aka NCC) want to be able to tie all phone lines to particular individuals.

So what does it take to register your sim card? According to the MTN website you would need to,

1. Visit ant MTN Center, Connect store or registration point.

2. fill out required details including name, surname, date of birth, address etc

3.  have your THUMBPRINT and passport photo taken

4. and then wait for 72 hours for your sim to be registered

If you insert your sim into a new phone you will have to re-register it again (yes no more sim swapping guys).

It is really surprising that such restrictive regulations would be forced on an industry that has led growth in Nigeria over the last decade all in an attempt to stay ahead of the kidnappers. Its symptomatic of the kind of short sighted policies that governments adopt even though Nigeria is not alone on this one. Any kidnapper worth his weight probably already knows how to beat this system (Hint: It involves a stolen phone and a dead body). On the other hand this policy will most like kill the growth of communication especially in the rural areas which need it the most. Nobody is going to set up a high-tech bio-metric capture facility to sell sim cards in Bokkos  and you must be really dedicated to travel all the way to Jos just to get a sim card registered.

Those t-mobile roaming charges just became a bit more logical.

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2 thoughts on “Sim card registration? What? Why?!!?

  1. You’ve raised some really good points, especially that the SIM card/cellphone has brought positive opportunities for people in rural Nigeria that never existed before. And although I think that is a serious consideration, the issue of security is more important. Can you imagine that millions of Nigerians carry cellphones with numbers that are not registered and therefore cannot be traced to a home or even an individual? This may be fine if we lived in a perfectly harmonious society where the burdens of poverty did not drive people to commit crimes, but unfortunately, in Nigeria we do not enjoy such a luxury.

    In other African (and non-African) countries individuals are required to fill out a form and register their sim card/cellphone before purchasing it; this is not something that is hard to accomplish. How do you accomplish it? Well first, make it a simple process — get rid of the thumb print and passport photo requirement (that’s just unnecessary and tedious). Second, it should be easily accessible in order to reach a wide scope of users. Making the process simple will also make it more easily accessible to people in rural areas. Finally, this should be done in a thought-out and orderly manner (sometimes difficult for our fellow Nigerians). So some questions to consider while our officials think this out: Who will be authorized to handle registrations — probably the phone company issuing the card (NOT Abuja, jeez can we decentralize please!) What will happen to the ppl who already have purchased sim cards? Is it really necessary to register a sim car again if you change phones — probably not, this is part of the whole simplification thing. What will be done with the information? Who will manage the information? There are probably more questions, but that’s all I could think of off the top of my head.
    Anyway, what do you think? What’s the best way for the cellphone market to continue to flourish in Nigeria, while maintaining user security (not to mention maintaining order and a sense of who’s using the networks)?

    1. You raise some valid points too. Sim card registration is not unique to Nigeria. The problem is where as it would take 30 seconds to register a line in most countries, in Nigeria it would take 72 hours on paper (probably a lot more in real life) to get a sim registered. The problem is that there is no real and credible identity management system. So where as in other countries simply having an id is enough to get a phone, in Nigeria it will turn to a whole process which will probably isolate a huge chunk of the rural population.

      I also really doubt that it will have any real impact on crime seeing as the police is still the same police and structure of the police is just wrong. If that doesn’t change, sim card registration or any other short cut policy to miraculously stop crime will fail.

      So on one hand we have a cost of stunting growth in telecoms and on the other he have the perceived benefit of reduced crime (which I will bet doesn’t happen). It doesn’t seem like such a good policy to me. Copying policies from abroad without understanding what the are meant to achieve and how won’t get us anywhere. You would think we would have learned that by now.

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