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Nigeria struggles to utilize biometric SIM registration to ID criminals

Mozambique begins pilot with similar goals
Nigeria struggles to utilize biometric SIM registration to ID criminals
 

Nigeria’s mandate for SIM cards to be registered to national digital IDs was intended to erect a major barrier against an epidemic of kidnappings plaguing the country. It has not worked yet.

The problem, according to Former Communication and Digital Economy Minister Isa Pantami, is not with the policy, but with its implementation and enforcement. Pantami described his frustration with an incident in which six sisters were kidnapped in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in a series of social media messages reported by Premium Times.

Pantami reveals that he persevered through threats against his life to introduce the policy, and that although improved capacity to enforce the law is only one element of it, he is disappointed with its “lack of utilisation.” He also said that the SIM registry has been successfully used in kidnapping investigations three times that he is aware of.

Steps are being taken to address the lacklustre implementation, with the National Identity Management Commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission agreeing to collaborate to improve it. They have identified gaps in the implementation, and plan to work together to close them, NIMC Director-General Abisoye Coker-Odusote says, according to Daily Post.

The SIM registration database can be cross-referenced with the database of National Identity Numbers to identify who is responsible for phone numbers that ransom calls come from. Coker-Odusote said at a Stakeholders Consultation Forum for the Nigeria Digital Identification for Development Project that NIMC and the NCC are also working with the country’s security agencies to use the registration data in investigations.

The deadline to link SIMs to national digital IDs is February 28, and NCC statistics showed close to 12 million accounts unlinked as of last September.

Mozambique begins SIM registrations

A campaign to register the face and fingerprint biometrics of mobile subscribers in Mozambique has begun, national news agency AIM reports.

Telecom regulator the National Communications Institute of Mozambique (INCM) launched the pilot phase of the registration effort, which will run until June 16. Registrations are not expected to become mandatory until 2025.

All registrations must be completed in person.

The policy is expected to curb fraudulent registrations, as well as the same kind of extortionate kidnapping as Nigeria is trying to stop.

INCM Administrator Constancio Trigo says 5,000 fraud incidents are committed each month with mobile devices, on average. Biometrics will make identifying the criminal perpetrators easier, he argues.

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