Nigeria’s communications minister Isa Pantami has begun moves to obtain Nigerians’ mobile phone identification protocols from telecom networks, a move that could further expose citizens to the state’s concerted efforts to track and monitor phone users, especially political opposition and critics.
The Nigerian Communications Commission, an agency under Mr Isa Pantami, said all details relating to active mobile phones in Nigeria will be obtained from telecom networks and warehoused under a newly-established Device Management System (DMS).
President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly given a nod for Mr Pantami to implement the project, which would see government obtain and store International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of Nigerians’ mobile phones.
Privacy rights advocates said the policy will aid the government’s monitoring of citizens’ communications and tracking of real-time locations.
The government, however, claimed the project was only aimed at ending fictitious mobile phone registrations and helping Nigerians recover stolen mobile phones.
“Accordingly, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has directed that the Device Management System should be implemented within three months,” said the revised policy sanctioned by Mr Pantami.
The policy listed the aims the commission hopes to achieve, which includes to “curtail the counterfeit mobile phone market, discourage mobile phone theft, enhance National Security, protect consumer interest, increase revenue generation for the government, reduce the rate of kidnapping, mitigate the use of stolen phones for crime, and facilitate blocking or tracing of stolen mobile phones and other smart devices.”
It sets out to achieve these goals through a Device Management System that will serve as a database for all registered mobile phones’ IMEI numbers and the owners of such devices.
The IMEI number is the mobile phone’s fingerprint. It is a 15-digit number peculiar to every mobile device. With the IMEI number, a phone can be tracked and located irrespective of the cellular number in it. Network providers use the IMEI number to identify valid devices and can stop a phone from accessing the network.
With the implementation of this policy, the Commission will have access to every IMEI number, NIN, and mobile numbers of every Nigerian.
This move comes while the telecommunications sector attempts to meet up with the NIN-SIM link deadline authorised by Mr Pantami.
Earlier this month, Mr Buhari stated that the SIM link programme will aid the government to easily identify its citizens, especially criminal deviants, urging Nigerian citizens and legal residents to obtain the NIN.
Mr Pantami, who has been embroiled in scandal as a result of his terrorist affiliations would gain access to every Nigerian’s information in addition to the infrastructure within his jurisdiction, raising privacy concerns.
Curled from People’s Gazette