The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has begun another round of compliance audit of SIM registration databases of MTN, Globacom, Airtel, 9Mobile, Ntel and other operators offering SIM-based services.

Following the commencement of the compliance audit, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are reportedly jittery over the status of their registered Subscribers Identity Module (SIM) cards.

The details: The audit is the second to be carried out by the Commission across all the mobile network providers since SIM registration was introduced in 2011.

  • Basically, the audit was initiated to ensure strict compliance to specifications for subscribers’ SIM registration. The specifications are prescribed in the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations and the Technical Standards and Specifications issued by the Commission in 2011.
  • Meanwhile, the NCC has disclosed that the verification would involve the back-end verification and scrubbing of SIM registration data already submitted by telecom operators.
  • According to a statement credited to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, the latest audit is a “very sensitive one” considering the importance of the information to security and law enforcement in the country.

“The Subscriber Registration Database is a veritable tool being used by security and law enforcement agencies in the detection and apprehension of criminal elements involved in heinous crimes like kidnapping, financial crimes, armed robberies, banditry, cattle rustling and other crimes.

“The security operatives can leverage on easy access to the national telecoms network. As such, we (NCC) are determined to continue to ensure all SIM cards are traceable to their real owners with the least effort.

“The audit is a natural next step to ensure that not only does the data already submitted fully comply but that operators maintain the highest standards of registration practices across all their touch-points so that the subscriber data they are collecting continues to serve the national security and other interests for which subscriber registration was mandated.”

Business day

[READ MORE: MTN loses 178,000 internet subscribers over ‘data concerns’]

The back story: Recall that the first SIM registration audit compliance carried out by the NCC in 2015 led to the imposition of N1.04 trillion fine on MTN. Specifically, MTN was fined for its failure to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered and improperly registered lines from its network.

  • The move by NCC followed accusations by mobile phone users that the regulator had failed to bring operators to account for poor services rendered to subscribers.
  • After several negotiations, the N1.04 trillion infraction fine was reduced to N350 billion, which represents a fine of N200,000 for each unregistered line.
  • MTN paid the fine in tranches and completed the payment in June 2019.

Another fine imminent: According to reports, all mobile network operators are reportedly jittery and currently employing several strategies in order to have clean books before the NCC hammer falls on them.

  • According to the report by Newtelegraph, since the beginning of August, network operators have been embarking on another round of ‘Know Your Customer (KYC)’ exercise, which is aimed at correcting any irregularity on their SIM registration database.
  • It was gathered that the telcos are aggressively pushing subscribers for the update as they have been sending messages urging subscribers to come for registration update before the end of August.

In the meantime, while the imposition of fines may be new to other network operators, MTN is expected not to allow another showdown with the NCC, considering the fact that it still has a case with the Federal Inland Revenue Service over tax deduction.

It should be noted that the move made by NCC is backed by its drive to ensure sanity in the telecommunication sector due to the security threat it portends to the country.

[READ FURTHER: MTN Nigeria hires KPMG to handle tax dispute as face-off with FIRS continues]

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