From Ademola Adeleye, Abuja
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Mr. Isa Pantami, who is still embroiled in allegations of being a terrorist sympathizer has said the Federal Government will now obtain Nigerians mobile phone identification protocols from network providers.
The Nigerian Communications Commission, which is an agency under the supervision of Mr. Pantami has notified that 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).
The new system will make it possible for government to monitor every communication of citizens and their locations in rea-time. This however raises a lot of concerns for a government that has extreme contempt for opposition and has in the past brutally cracked down on dissenting voices.
President Muhammadu Buhari has already given his consent to obtain and store the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of all phones in the country. “Accordingly, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has directed that the Device Management System should be implemented within three months,” the policy as approved by Mr Pantami read.
But in a reaction the government claims the policy is to stop fictitious registration of mobile phones and help Nigerians recover lost or stolen phones.
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.
Pantami and the burden of trust
The Minister has recently conceded he once haboured dangerous extremist Islamist ideologies and once called for a Jihad against minority Christians in Nigeria’s northern region. But he claimed, he had since renounced the ideology and has since fought against religious extremists.
Despite nationwide calls for his sack, President Buhari has chosen to stand by him. However, Nigerians feel completely uncomfortable leaving all their security in the hands of a man and government that has clear ethnic and Islamic fundamentalist ideas.
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.