Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, said the country now has capacity to produce SIM cards and iPhone for the continent of Africa.
The minister said henceforth importation of SIM cards and other 60-70 percent of items needed in telecommunications sector will be produced locally.
Speaking with newsmen at the national secretariat of All Progressives Congress (APC) Thursday in Abuja, Pantami said Nigeria has capacity to produce a minimum of 200 million SIMS annually.
The event was organised by the APC Professional Group
Pantami said: “We came up with a policy that we wanted Nigeria to in the next two to three years, that a minimum of 60 to 70 percent of what we need in the telecommunications sector, that is going to be produced locally. We have started it.
“When this administration came on board, even SIM cards were imported to Nigeria but as it is today, the federal government has provided an enabling environment for the private sector and as it is today, we have the capacity to produce SIM cards not only for our consumption but for the entire African continent.
“We have the capacity to produce a minimum of 200 million SIMS annually. We have provided an enabling environment for the private sector to start the production of smartphones. Today in Nigeria, we are producing smartphones.”
The minister reiterated the resolve of his ministry to leverage on information technology to boost the economy and tackle the security challenges in the country.
He explained that the SIM card registeration exercise was part of measure put in place to achieve the goal.
According to him: “Security cannot be ignored. Security cannot be compromised because of economic development. It should be our priority and preference. We have come up with several policies in order to support security institutions.
“One, when I was appointed, unregistered SIMS, partially registered SIMS were being used in perpetrating and perpetuating crimes in the country. Nobody knew even the total number of unregistered SIMS.
” Within less than 15 days in office, we engaged the NCC as a regulator and directed them to carry out an audit and come up with unregistered and partially registered SIMS. They came came up with around 9.4 million which is about or more than the population of some countries.
“It was the first time we even knew the number of unregistered or partially registered SIMS. Go through history, go through the news. From the end of September 2019 up to February 2020, you would discover that even kidnapping and banditry reduced to the barest minimum.
“It was the time that you could spend one month or more without hearing anything kidnapping. The more you come up with policies to make the system effective, the more criminals will come up with strategies to compromise the policy.
“So, it was because of this they came up with another approach where they use or engage agents, registering SIMS in Nigeria. These agents are not employees of the federal government. Some of them compromised the process to the extent that they used to invite somebody, give him certain amount of money and say we will use your biometrics to register some SIMS.
” Then they go online and find any image they see, fill it as a passport, use biometrics of one person go register 100 SIMS. So, criminals exploited that. They were buying pre-registered SIMS. Then the FG came up with the NIM-SIM linkage so that somebody will not be able to use your biometrics to register another SIM and use it to commit crime.
” So, if you are innocent, you have no problem presenting your biometrics to the federal government. If you need mine, I can give you. But usually, criminals will not like to present their biometrics because it is the easiest way for them to commit crime.”
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta who spoke in the same vein said his outfit is not resting on its oars to tackle the menace of kidnappings and other form of criminalities in the country.
The NCC boss assured that those in indulge in kidnapping would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
He remarked that notwithstanding the antics of kidnappers, his outfit had been working in cahoots with security agencies to ensure the wellbeing of the citizenry.
According to him: “Every registered SIM has the biographic and demographic of the holder. Once such a SIM is used to perpetrate any crime we can easily through information in the data base be able to come up with the identity of the person who perpetrate the crime. We have been doing that all along.
“The federal ministry of communications and digital economy through the NCC is alive to this important responsibility of containing crimes. We provide information about the person committing the crime within the shortest possible time to the relevant security agents in our country.
“The kidnappers when they kidnap their victims , they change tactics. Before now, they were making calls with their own handsets, now they are using the handsets of their own victims. So when you visit the database you can’t come up with the information of the victim and not the person who kidnapped him or her.
“But still once a call is made, we can be able to establish where that call is coming from. It can be trapped with precession where it is coming from. So we still provide this information to security agencies in order to reduce instances of kidnappings even though it is the picture of the victims that come up instead of the person committing the crime.
“And again the security agencies have been using their devices to intercept any information to tackle the menace. It may take time to get to the victims, and lead to where the kidnappers are. Yes they keep changing tactics and I believe the security agencies too are changing their tactics.”