IN August 2014, Kazeem Biriowo visited sales promotion event organised by the MTN in Ota, Ado/Odo/Ota Local Government Area in Ogun State.
Due to the enticing promotional benefits, he bought an MTN SIM card.
According to International Center for Investigative Reporting, (ICIR), right there, he did his Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration, data capturing as well as fingerprints.
ICIR is an independent, nonprofit news agency that seeks to promote transparency and accountability through robust and objective investigative reporting.
According to ICIR, surprisingly, months after, a subscriber, who seems to be a Lagos businessman, residing at the Bourdillion called claiming, he is the real owner of the line.
Prior to this time, clients of the businessman were communicating via text messages to the same line, oblivious of the fact that recipient of those messages is not actually their business partner.
This continued for a long time, until he resolved to discard the SIM card for a newly registered one.
“It appears the person is into freight business because his clients sent several credit alerts to the SIM,” Biriowo told The ICIR.
“For instance, someone once sent a message that he has just sent N100, 000 to his (businessman) account as part of N500, 000 payment so far made. So, to avoid impersonation, I decided to forgo the line.”
Inspite of his trouble, Biriowo bought another MTN line.
But, he was shocked to find out the new line he duly registered was also registered with name belonging to another person, after checking through the True Caller, a popular phone application used to verify people’s identity.
“I was surprised to see Nurse Awal,” he said.
Again, just last week someone called him and said, “Mr Man, this is my phone number. At this time, I was furious. So, I responded– Mr Man! You have called the wrong line”, says Biriowo. “He called again but I insisted the line is mine. So, he terminated the call.”
Why phone users may be at risk
Subscribers to the major telecommunication companies were randomly contacted. And findings showed that most of those who did SIM swap have experienced frustration due to SIM recycling capable of exposing users to danger.
On 7th January, Omoyele Sowore, the Sahara Reporters Publisher shared on his timeline how a man, Anthony Okolia was illegally detained for possessing a phone line he purchased years after it was allegedly abandoned by Hanan Buhari, daughter of Nigeria’s President.
It was discovered that the accused had earlier registered the SIM. Fortunately, he was still in possession of the payment receipt.
In fact, Okolia was allegedly detained for 10 weeks but later released through the effort of his lawyer when Buhari’s daughter refused to present herself to prove she is the rightful owner.
The incident generated some controversy. While some questioned legality of SIM swap, others expressed worry over unlawful detainment of the accused persons. There are several other Nigerians who have had similar SIM swap experience but not made their complaints public.
Last year December, Adeleke Adewolu, NCC Executive Commissioner on Stakeholder Management (ECSM) attributed illegal SIM swaps as being responsible for the highest cyber threats recorded in the telecom sector.
But, based on Biriowo’s observation, anyone who buys a phone line which starts with 08033, for instance in 2018 and above could have bought a swapped line. The original owner could be dead or the SIM card stolen, thus such SIM may have been recycled, he suggested.
While this may be entirely true, The ICIR also discovered that mobile phone lines which have been inactive for three months are mostly considered moribund by telecom firms.
It was also discovered that some of the operators would often send a short message to subscribers after the third month to verify the line’s activeness. The concerned persons are then advised to recharge a certain amount; otherwise, the line will be re-cycled.
An alternative scenario is such that mobile SIM cards are mostly produced in batches such as from 0803, 0806, 0813 etc for the MTN. Globacom phone number prefix started with O805, 0807, 0705…etc while Airtel is 0802, 0902, 0701, 0808, 0708, etc. The trend further applies to the other telecom network operators.
As such, while new SIMS are produced, unused ones are recycled but with likely grave consequences to subscribers.
More sordid experience
A journalist who sought anonymity while sharing his experience told The ICIR how he registered his SIM card in Lagos at a roadside outlet believed to be an accredited Airtel agent. He had used the same active SIM for years until he moved to Abuja.
“Those guys captured me. They did my fingerprint and collected every data…” he said.
At the advent of the 4G network, he decides to upgrade his SIM card at the Airtel office situated within the Central Business District (CBD). But he was shocked when he got a surprising response at the counter – his line belongs to someone else.
“When I wanted to change to 4G last month, I went to the Airtel office at Shoprite in Musa Yardua and I was told to write down my name. I did that, but after he checked, I was told it is assigned to another name.
“It is my active line. In fact, I abandoned another line for it. So that’s not possible,” he argued, yet in a state of confusion. But, the telecom operator official affirmed, “that’s what the record shows.” It was same experience with Biriowo, the earlier complainant.
The senior journalist was later advised to re-register the number in his name before he could migrate to 4G. And he was told he would wait another one month before the migration could happen.
NDPR to Safeguard Personal Data of Nigerians -DG NITDA
Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has disclosed that the motive behind the issuance of Nigerian Data Protection Regulations, (NDPR) by the Agency was to safeguard the right of natural persons to data privacy, fostering safe conduct for transactions involving the exchange of personal data, enablement of Nigerian businesses to be globally compliant and competitive and to create jobs for Nigerians.
Mallam Abdullahi revealed this Friday while delivering the keynote address at the 6th annual conference of Institute Internal Auditors of Nigeria, (IIAN) with the theme:, “Agility and Resilience” which was held on zoom conference platform.
The Conference aimed at preparing participants across Internal Audits, Internal Controls, risk management, revenue and Government assurance and other business professionals to learn how to leverage on new technologies and procedures towards actualisation of the organisation’s goals and objectives.
The NITDA DG who was represented Director e-Government Development and Regulations, Dr Vincent Olatunji stated that since inception of the Agency in 2001, it has been playing a catalytic roles to spur the infusion of technology into nation’s work processes reiterating that the Agency plays “critical roles in capacity development, provision of working tools for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“NITDA also has an existing arrangement with the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to aid the office in the discharge of its activities.”
Mallam Abdullahi said, “The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) was issued on 25th January, 2020 by my predecessor, DrIsa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
“As part of his think-tank then, our thinking was that Nigeria needed to quickly provide a regulatory framework for the processing of personal data.
“This was even more pertinent in consideration of the global implications of non-performance.
“Businesses where losing bids because investors felt there was no data privacy regime in Nigeria.
“The Agency’s implementation of the NDPR has been innovative and impact oriented. For the first time in data protection implementation, auditors became recognised as Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO)”.
He maintained that NITDA has 72 licensed DPCOs among which are members of this “august body,” adding that “this posture is not as a result of lack of professionals in the IT industry, rather, we have made conscious efforts to carry every relevant stakeholder along in our developmental regulatory strategy.
“ I hope this noble institute would repay NITDA’s generosity by imbibing ethical and professional principles on your members for better implementation of the Regulation.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, New Capital Cooperatives Society Mr. Benedict Anyalenka while commending the organisers of the conference affirmed that data privacy and protection should be a requisite skill needed for development of the Information Technology Sector as it would create platform for protection of information against unauthorized usage.
Anyalenka, however, called for proper awareness on the importance of data privacy among organisations and stakeholders across the country to safeguard citizens’ data.
FG Reveals Plans to Deploy Technology in the Health Sector
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government of Nigeria has announced plans to deploy information and communications technology (ICT) in the country’s health sector.
This is part of the plans to achieve transparency and accountability in health care delivery across the country.
Dr. Ngozi R. C. Azodoh, director, Special Projects, Federal Ministry of Health, who represented Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, Honourable Minister of Health, revealed this while speaking at MTN Nigeria’s Revv Programme masterclass on Thursday, September 17, 2020 .
The virtual session themed ‘Bridging the healthcare divide through technology and partnerships’ had in attendance health sector experts including Chief Executive Officer, Hygeia HMO Limited, Obinnia Abajue; Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder, Afya Care, Kola Oni; Managing Director, Ingress Health Partners, Dr. Orode Doherty and Chief Executive Officer, Tremendoc Limited, Ugochukwu Chikezie. The session was moderated by the General Manager, Business Development, MTN Nigeria, Omotayo Ojulatayo.
According to Azodoh, the federal government has put structures in place to utilise ICT as part of efforts to standardise the healthcare system.
“The government is working hand in hand with state governments across the country to maintain transparency and accountability, adding that ICT and other forms of electronic platforms are currently being improved and expanded following the federal government’s COVID intervention”.
She also shared that the ministry is willing to support small businesses in the sector imploring the participating SMEs to seize the opportunities provided by The Revv Programme.
“I want to ask everyone who is listening to write to the MTN Revv team and say this is one thing I want the Federal Ministry of Health to do to help my business then we can engage on how to proceed,” she enthused.
In her parting remarks, she also commended MTN Nigeria for providing a platform for SMEs to expand their capacity. “I must commend MTN for this excellent initiative. It has been very productive for me and an opportunity to transfer knowledge.”
The Revv Programme is an initiative from MTN Nigeria to help small businesses rethink and retool their operations in order to withstand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic using a four-pronged approach that includes masterclasses, access to market, productivity tools support and advisory initiatives.
Peace House Charity Foundation Seeks for DCTC Intervention
Mallam Kashifu InuwaAbdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), asserted that if we do not empower our people, they become a problem to the society in future.
He made this know on Friday while receiving a delegation from Peace House Charity Foundation,Yola who were at the Agency’s Corporate Headquarter, Abuja to seek for interventions in the areas of ICT.
The representative of the Director General, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, Director eGovernment Development and Regulation stated that one of the mandate of the Agency is the deployment of ICT infrastructure as such the Foundation’s visit at this time is very apt as the Agency is relentlessly working on the implementation of the Digital Economy strategy.
MallamAbdullahi affirmed that Agency at the moment is looking for organisations to partner with to sustain Digital Capacity Training Centres deployed across the country.
He commended the effort of the organisation in assisting orphans with not only providing basic education but also the provision of skills, mentorship and moral upbringing.
Speaking earlier, Mr Mohammad Bello, a Director with the Foundation said that the organisation was at the Agency to seek for ICT intervention and to commend NITDA’s effort in promoting ICT knowledge across the nation.
He stated that the organisation supports education for the orphans and the less privileged, promote health care delivery especially among women and children, provide sensitisation workshop for parents (mothers) on parenting and matrimonial home, promote unity and encourage self-reliance among the populace.
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