Reps, Security agencies call for immediate de-registration of unregistered SIMs

• Call for compulsory profiling of telecom, bank, vendors staff

Concerned members of the House of Representatives and authorities of various security agencies, on Monday, called for the immediate de-registration of all unregistered SIM cards as part of measures aimed at safeguarding national security and the economy.

They expressed the concerns in Abuja, at the opening of the 3-day investigative public hearing held by the Ad-Hoc Committee investigating ‘incidents of SIM Swap fraud’, chaired by Honourable Abubakar Fulata, who observed that the banking industry may collapse if proactive measures are not taken in time.

They specifically pointed at some unscrupulous elements within the banking and telecom industry who aid and abet the organised crimes by providing personal customer’s information to their cronies against the extant rules.

Worried by the unabated cases of economic and financial fraud being perpetrated in both telecoms and banking industry, Honourable Fulata harped on the need to repeal extant financial and telecommunication laws with the view to provide for punitive measures that would serve as deterrent for banks and telecom operators who fail to put necessary measures in place to protect their subscribers.

Commandant General of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Abdullahi Muhammadu, who explained that the agency has the requisite technical competence to prosecute the syndicates, however, observed that the agency lacks the requisite equipment to carry out its mandate.

Meanwhile, he assured that efforts are underway to provide for the funds required to procure the equipment in the 2020 budget proposal before the National Assembly.

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He observed that: “Once the SIM is swapped, they get access to victims One Time Passwords (OTPS), financial accounts and card related alerts, which they use to commit the fraud.

“Recent reports received by intelligence indicted the misuse of the established laws guiding sales and registration of SIM cards by service providers agents such as MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9 Mobile. Further checks indicated that criminals use false names to register multiple SIM cards with which to perpetrate crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, vandalism, terrorism, etc and vanish into thin air without any trace which has reminded unabated.”

The NSCDC boss who was represented by Deputy Commandant General, Aminu Kofarsoro, pledged the assistance of Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) to profile staff and vendors engaged by banks and telecom operators with the view to track perpetrators of the heinous crime.

Some of the lawmakers who spoke during the investigative hearing frowned at the failure of banks authorities to track accounts used to warehouse the stolen funds.

On his part, Brigadier General Thompson Ugiagbe, who spoke on behalf of Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), stressed the need to make the issuance of Court affidavit stringent before being allowed for SIM swap, just as he underscored the need for synergy among between the regulatory bodies in the financial and telecom industry with security agencies.

The security agencies also called for harmonisation of various database generated by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

They also stressed the need for banks to strengthen the know your customer (KYC) package.

While declaring the hearing open, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who was represented by the Deputy Majority Leader, Hon Peter Akpatason observed that fraud of all kinds has a devastating effect on our economic output.

The Speaker explained that fraud substantially increases the risks and cost of investment, discourage local and foreign investors from committing capital to building businesses, pursuing innovation and growing an economy that is sufficiently robust to meet our present needs and lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.

“SIM swap fraud allows cybercriminals to gain access to personal and corporate account information by diverting incoming text messages, particularly confidential banking information. They are subsequently able to use the information so obtained to access bank accounts of victims and steal huge sums of money running into billions of dollars globally.

“This is but one example of the pattern of global cybercrime with which governments, corporations and citizens have to contend. Often, the existing law enforcement paradigms are unable to suitably deal with this new reality because, before policy, legislative and operational adjustments are made to adequately address new forms of fraud, the fraudsters have moved on to more advanced techniques,” Hon Gbajabiamila observed.

While stressing the need for the Legislature to develop a permanent framework that ensures that government is able to be more effective and responsive to the challenges of cybercrime in all its ramifications, as Federal Government advances a comprehensive cashless policy to aid in reducing corruption, manage inflation and eliminate associated risks of moving large volume of cash.

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