Last week, news made rounds that the National Communications Commission (NCC) has mandated all phone owners to submit their International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) within three months.
The NCC’s directive aligns with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy Revised National Identity Policy for SIM Registration. The policy requires all Nigerian citizens to submit their IMEI numbers to a Centralized Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), known as Device Management System (DMS).
The move is in tandem with the previous initiatives for digital identities enforced by the NCC in the past months. Recall that they stated for all Nigerians to link their National Identity Number (NIN) to their SIM cards in December 2020. Achieving the NIN linkage wasn’t an easy task due to the country’s population and other factors.
Since the enforcement in December, the Commission has lifted the SIM card registration ban and moved the deadline given to citizens to link their NIN thrice. The current deadline is June 30, 2021.
While the Ministry enforced the NIN directive to curtail fraudulent activities linked to multiple SIM card registrations, they have a different reason for enforcing the IMEI directive.
According to them, the policy will help them fight 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 the blocking or tracing of stolen mobile phones and other smart devices.
The IMEI is a unique 15 digit number used to identify a phone on a mobile network. The number can be used to track or clone a phone irrespective of the SIM card in it and submitting it will have consequences. Hence the reason why the news caused an uproar on Twitter.
However, the news caused an outcry on Twitter, with Nigerian’s stating their discomfort about the directive.
The NCC later released a statement debunking the directive.
“The attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission has been drawn to several media publications to the effect that the Commission will require Nigerians to submit the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of their phones to it from July, 2021.
At no time did the Commission issue a Statement regarding the registration of IMEI by subscribers and it has no plans to do so. The reports in question have emanated from a section of the Revised National Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration recently launched by President Muhammadu Buhari and which has been uploaded on the Commission’s website,” reads an excerpt from the press release.
Although the government does not require citizens to submit this data, they will capture it automatically through the DMS.
The NCC’s clarity still does not sit well with Nigerians.
Some countries like Turkey and the UK has implemented this policy and helped in the reduction of phone theft. But questions abound if the Nigerian government will use the data positively and not exploit it for oppression.