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Group challenges order blocking 72M SIMs unlinked to biometrics in Nigeria

Group challenges order blocking 72M SIMs unlinked to biometrics in Nigeria

The decision by Nigeria’s federal government to order the blocking of more than 72 million SIM cards not linked to the holders’ national identification numbers (NIN), and their biometrics by extension, has not been well received by many Nigerians, including rights advocates who are clamoring for the move to be reversed.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), an advocacy group, has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari to a federal high court in Lagos, saying the move to block the SIM cards violates the human rights of the owners, The Whistler reports.

Earlier this month, the federal government instructed telcos in the country to partially block all unregistered SIM cards upon expiration of the tenth extension of the SIM-NIN registration deadline.

SERAP, in its lawsuit, sustains that the SIM cards should not have been blocked in the first place since the federal government, according to the group, did not put in place the necessary logistics to enable disadvantaged categories of people to register for the digital ID.

The group says due to such logistical inadequacies, plus administrative and bureaucratic red tape, groups of persons such as those with physical infirmities, the elderly as well as those living in difficult-to-access communities have been unable to have their biometrics captured for the NIN.

SERAP is thus asking the court to seek the unblocking of the SIMs to render justice to the victims, put a restraining order on any future similar move, and then order the federal government to forthwith put in place necessary measures to ensure that all Nigerians can enroll and obtain the NIN without bottlenecks, The Whistler notes.

Fears as South Africa proposes SIM registration with biometrics

Three thousand miles away in South Africa, there are already fears about the safety of personal data as the country is considering a policy that will require the identification of SIM cards using citizens’ biometric data.

In a column published by The Star, the writer expresses worries that this proposal by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to register SIMs with biometrics not only puts the privacy of citizens at stake, it comes as a threat to the personal freedoms of South Africans.

The columnist also acknowledges that this practice of registering SIMs with biometrics is gaining more ground on the continent, and that the trend could lead to what he terms the opening of the “Pandora’s Box, leading to the 21st century version of releasing physical and emotional curses upon humanity.”

He states that if the South African policy goes through, the country will join the likes of Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Zambia where identifying a SIM card requires the submission of biometric information at one stage or the other.

Mexico Supreme Court rules against biometric phone registry

Mexico is bucking the trend of biometric SIM linking. The government faced a major blow to its plans of putting in place a biometric national cellphone registry after the highest court of the land adjudged the move as unconstitutional. The court has held that the registry has no sufficient safeguards for data privacy, and the project would also violate human rights, hence should be invalidated.

According to Reuters, nine of the 11-member court voted against the creation of the registry which would have seen phone users register their SIMs by submitting information such as fingerprints and iris biometrics at the cost of the user.

The registry, dubbed Panaut, was passed in Parliament in April last year, but was suspended a few months later following legal challenges by rights groups.

The government says it wanted to create the registry to help fight the high crime wave in the country as phone users will not be able to make anonymous calls while perpetrating crime.

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