Pantami under fire as NCC demands phones’ IMEI after NIN

Isa Ali Pantami

Minister of communications and digital economy Isa Pantami has come under criticism on social media following a new demand by an agency under him, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The NCC said in its revised national identity policy for SIM card registration that Nigerians would have to submit the International Mobile Equipment Identity of their phones to it from July.

The move backed by President Muhammadu Buhari would see it implemented in three months.

The NCC said, “With the aim 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, one of the means to achieve this is through the deployment of Device Management System.

“The implementation of a Centralised Equipment Identity Register otherwise known as Device Management System will serve as a repository for keeping records of all registered mobile phones’ International Mobile Equipment Identity and owners of such devices.

“IMEIs that have been reported as either stolen or illegal will be shared through the DMS to all the operators and service providers.”

The IMEI number is the mobile phone’s fingerprint. It is a 15-digit number unique to each phone. With the IMEI number, a phone can be tracked and located irrespective of the cellular number in it.

With previous calls for Pantami’s resignation ignored, Nigerians are worried the new policy would put more information into the hands of the minister who made pro-extremist comments in the past.