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SIM Boxing, And the Unboxing of Crime Syndicate



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By Suleiman Bala Bakori

Boxes have a multitude of uses, and the word “box”, lends itself to diverse contexts.

SIM Boxing, And the Unboxing of Crime Syndicate

For “Ajala Travelers,” the box is a necessity for keeping goods for their endless journeys. In literature, idiomatically, it can be said that “one has been boxed into a corner;” another might say to deal with a conundrum: “think outside the box;” then there is the “Pandora’s box” that no one wants opened.

To “box one’s ear’s” refers to a hit on the head, especially around one’s ears. For those who celebrate Christmas, “Boxing Day,” which is the 26th of December, the second day of Christmastide is not to be joked with: A day to unbox gifts. So much for the box.

Another type of boxes exists in the telecommunications world: The SIM Box. Have you ever received an international call but saw a local phone number ring in?

That is SIM Boxing in action. Let me explain.

SIM boxing happens when a person uses a special equipment, what is called a SIM Box containing tens to hundreds of SIM Cards—from 32, to 96, to 512 and more SIMs —to terminate international calls by bringing in the international call into the SIM Box using internet connections and regenerating the calls to the called party from one of the hundred SIMs in the box.

This way, the called party will see the local number of the SIM from the SIM Box, and not the original international number calling.

With SIM Boxes, the syndicate charges international call carriers lower rates than what regular Nigerian telecommunications operators would charge, as they do not have to pay the full cost of maintaining and operating a phone network.

Basically, they are bypassing the normal route for international phone call termination to terminate international calls cheaply and making windfall profits off it.

Take for instance, a telecommunications operator in Nigeria would ordinarily charge international carriers 10cents per minute for terminating an international call in Nigeria. However, by routing the call through a SIM Boxing syndicate, the international telecommunications carrier only pays a fraction of the charge to the syndicate, say 5cents per minute and does not have to pay the full 10cents per minute charge.

The SIM Boxer will terminate this call to the called subscriber at a rate of, say N15 per minute using one of the SIM cards in their SIM Box.

The SIM Boxer thus makes a killing from the differential between the rate charged to the international carrier and the rate paid to telecommunications operators whose SIM they utilise in their SIM Boxes, at the expense of our national security and income of mobile network operators and quality of our service to consumers.

Asides the revenue loss that local mobile network operators suffer courtesy the activities of these syndicates, networks face congestion around areas where the illegal call routings via SIM Boxing occurs.

With the huge traffic from the boxes, callers around the area see more dropped calls, poor call quality, and slower data speeds.

The introduction of the linking of National Identity Numbers (NIN) to SIMs is one way the Federal Government has worked to tackle this criminal enterprise.

With every SIM in the country being linked to an NIN, an identity is tied to the owner of each line, and regulators now have visibility of ownership.

That is not all. There is also the “Max-4 Rule” where a subscriber is not allowed to have more than four lines per network operator linked to his NIN.

With this rule in place, coupled with the NIN-SIM Linkage, every telephone subscriber in Nigeria would not just be accurately identifiable but limited to having only four telephone lines per subscriber.

To enforce this rule, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the 29th of March 2024 announced the deadline for Mobile Network Operators to bar all subscribers who had five lines and above, and whose NIN failed the verification test of biometrics matching.

Over the last few weeks, sources within the NCC have confirmed cases where a single NIN was linked to over 100,000 lines.

Some NINs had well over 10,000 SIMS linked to them, others over a thousand, others had hundreds.

Many have questioned the reports and asked, what would any single reasonable person be doing with these number of lines? Justifiable questions, because no sane person—who is not running a business—should own more than five SIM cards.

Given the ‘Max 4 Rule’ in place and the NIN-SIM Linkage Policy, SIM Boxers have been boxed into a corner.

The applications they use require tens to thousands of SIM Cards, and the imperative to stay anonymous.

If these policies are well and fully implemented, this is the death knell for SIM Boxing merchants.

But the regulator, NCC needs to be fast and ready for the battle ahead. SIM Boxing is a billion-dollar criminal enterprise.

They are not going to go down without a fight. It is like taking a bone being chewed from the mouth of a bulldog.

Already, the battle seems to have kicked off.

A lawyer, Barrister Olukoya Ogunbeje has recently taken the Federal Government, NCC and Mobile Network Operators to court, claiming that the barring of SIMs not linked to NINs goes against his fundamental human rights, and has cost him the loss of business opportunities.

Anyone who has Nigeria’s interest at heart ordinarily supports this policy. It then does not add up seeing a so-called activist lawyer take up such a matter that is clearly against the public interest—unless this is the Haka cry of SIM Boxers.

A most interesting observation with his case is that it is not even a class action, but individually driven. It begs the question then, who is funding Barr. Olukoya Ogungbeje?

What is his interest in fighting this policy that puts paid to the business of a criminal enterprise? Is he funded by interests in the SIM Boxing world?

Time would tell. But in the meantime, NCC must go head on without fear or intimation and clean the Augean stable of SIM ownership in Nigeria.

Suleiman Bala Bakori is a researcher, and writes from the FCT.



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Don’t Blame Telcos for Data Depletion, NCC Explains How and Why



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Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that telecommunications companies are not blame for draining the data bundles of Nigerians.

Don’t Blame Telcos for Data Depletion, NCC Explains How and Why

The NCC through its Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB), claimed that active background apps and malware are usually to blame.

This is against the backdrop of the legion of complaints from subscribers about fast data drainage from service providers such as MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile.

However, the NCC on its official website highlighted several factors that could be responsible for rapid data exhaustion to include:

“Excessive usage: One of the main reasons for data depletion is excessive usage. If you use your phone to stream videos or music, download large files, or use data-intensive apps for a long time, your data limit can quickly be depleted.

Background apps: Some apps continue to consume data even when you’re not actively using them. Background data usage can quickly add up and deplete your data allowance.

“Automatic updates: Automatic updates for apps, operating systems, and other software can also use up a significant amount of data.

“Location services: GPS and other location services can consume a lot of data, especially if you use navigation apps like Google Maps.

“Advertisements: Some apps display ads that use data. These ads can consume data even if you don’t interact with them.

“Roaming: If you travel abroad and use your phone, you may be subject to data roaming charges, which can quickly add up and deplete your data allowance.

Malware: Malware and viruses can consume data without your knowledge. If you suspect that your phone has been infected, it’s important to remove the malware as soon as possible.”

The Commission also advised mobile users to disable location services for some specific apps as such services consume a lot of data.

For unsolicited advertisements, the telecom regulator advised the subscribers to install ad-blockers.

NCC also suggested connecting to Wi-Fi whenever possible for mobile subscribers to avoid using their cellular data. “You can connect to Wi-Fi at home, work, or in public places like cafes or libraries,” the Commission said.

NCC further advised that any subscriber who consistently runs out of data should consider upgrading to a larger data plan.




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Ministry of Education Backs MTN Foundation’s Call for Application



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Nigerian Ministry of Education has thrown its weight behind the MTN Foundation’s Scholarship initiative. The call for application by eligible students runs till June 19th and will see 360 students receive scholarships worth 300,000 naira each.

In 2010, the MTN Nigeria Foundation established the MTN Scholarships Program, an annual award designed to recognize and reward eligible high-performing students in Nigerian public tertiary institutions.

The program comprises three categories: the MTN Science and Technology Scholarship (MTN STS), the MTN Scholarship for Blind Students (MTN SBS), and the Top 10 UTME Scholarship. Each year, 300 students are awarded scholarships, which they receive until graduation, provided they meet the grade requirements. This year, the annual award amount has been increased from N200,000 to N300,000, and the number of beneficiaries increased from 300 to 360.

Over the past 12 years, the program has positively impacted the lives of 4,949 students. By providing financial assistance and recognizing academic excellence, the scholarship program has supported thousands of students in pursuing higher education, thus contributing to their personal and professional growth.

The MTN Foundation recently commenced another edition of the Scholarship, receiving strong support from the Federal Ministry of Education, which has called on all Nigerian students, including undergraduates and UTME candidates, to apply for the program.

In an announcement made on Monday, June 10th, the ministry encouraged all interested and qualified students to take advantage of this opportunity for their academic benefit.

The Federal Ministry of Education, through its Federal Scholarship Board, has consistently demonstrated its commitment to aiding Nigerian students’ academic success by keeping them informed about scholarship opportunities both domestically and internationally.

Commenting on the impact of the annual scholarship, the Executive Director of the MTN Foundation, Odunayo Sanya reaffirmed the Foundation’s commitment to ensuring quality education in Nigeria.

“Education is pivotal for national progress, and the MTN Foundation is unwavering in its commitment to empowering every Nigerian student to achieve academic excellence.

“By expanding scholarship opportunities, particularly for blind students, the foundation is making a strategic investment not just in individuals, but in cultivating a more inclusive and diverse generation of leaders and innovators who will shape a better future for Nigeria,” she said.

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ntel Taps Adrian Wood as CEO, Plans to Raise $550m



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Mr. Adrian Wood, former chief executive officer (CEO) of MTN Nigeria has returned to the Nigerian telecoms space as the new chief executive officer of ntel, which provides 4G LTE advanced network in Nigeria.

ntel Taps Adrian Wood as CEO, Plans to Raise $550m

Wood who left Nigeria in 2004 resumed his new position on January 8, 2024, as the new CEO of ntel and took over from Dr. Babatunde Omotoba, former CEO,  with plans to raise $550 million for restructuring of the new ntel.

In his new role, Wood has been tasked to shop for fresh investors and to rebrand the telecoms company, and he has assured the staff of ntel of his commitment and desire to meet up with his new role.

In a statement sent out by Wood to all ntel staff dated June 5, 2024 and gathered by the media, he encouraged them to remain steadfast and assured them of his commitment to introduce fresh investors and to rebrand the company in few weeks time.

He also told them about his several meetings with the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), which took over the management of ntel since last year and plans by AMCON to return ntel to its new investors.

Wood also told them about his meeting with the management of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

“On 21 May, I visited the EVC/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr. Aminu Maida. We had a very productive session about the forward plan for NATCOMS, our role in industry building, as well as the prospects for raising equity and debt capital to fund a complete new 4G/5G network design and rollout nationwide.

“Dr. Maida made several requests for support on NCC’s initiatives, which we will do. In the background, I have been engaging with potential institutional investors.

“When the new financial business plan and offering document is ready soon, there will be a roadshow to raise (estimated) US$500 million to US$550 million, to restructure, rebuild and develop NATCOMS.

“Already, together with CIO Anthony Adegbola, one New York investment fund visited some of our Lagos facilities.” The letter reads.

He also revealed that he had a meeting with African Capital Alliance, one of Nigeria’s (and Africa’s) premier private equity funds group.

“ACA was an early-stage investor in MTN Nigeria. In fact, they told us it remains their investment with the best returns, ever.

“Next week I will be seeing three other potential institutional investors. All of them are Africa-focused, have investments in Nigeria in other segments, have offices in Nigeria and are seeking digital infrastructure projects to support with funding.

“Of course, it will take months of negotiations to secure large capital commitments in several stages. And that is the purpose of (55% NATCOMS shareholder) AMCON’s Facility – to see us through the crucial Project Management Office planning phase, new capital formation and network roll out, prior to relaunching the business,” it added.

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