Some security agencies have got an approval from the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, to access the database of the National Identity Management Commission in the course of carrying out their duties.
As a result, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, said his office through the Nigerian Communications Commission, has conveyed the approval to the relevant security agencies.
He did not give the names of the security agencies. He, however, said the development would enhance security as it would help security operatives to go after kidnappers and other criminals.
Pantami disclosed this while speaking to Nigerian journalists on the sidelines of LEAP 22, a technology event, currently holding Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
He said, “Some of the security institutions, based on the cybercrime law, are allowed to gain access to the database without coming to us because the database allows for lawful intercept. That lawful intercept was allowed in order to support our security agencies.
“Mr. President has given an approved for them to do it, without even our intervention. So, with that approval, the NCC has conveyed that through my office to all the relevant institutions that the President has granted an approval for that.
“So, with it, they can gain access into the database even without our permission, and they have never complained to me, even for once. The only person that wrote a letter to me is the Minister of Defence, asking that we should try to finish the NIN-SIM policy on time.”
The NIMC currently house the data of the over 73 million Nigerians who have linked their National Identity Number with their SIM.
The minister, however, said the NIMC was still struggling with infrastructure, salary and welfare challenges, among others.
He added that the government was struggling to pay salaries and implement measures to help the commission complete its job.
Pantami said, “If you look at the circumstances, NIMC is doing very well. Before my coming, what NIMC captured was just about 40 million, but now over 73 million have been done. We have achieved over 30 million within one year, while 40 million was achieved from 2007 to 2020.
“Secondly, about NIN-SIM registration, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the NIMC are not security institutions. We are a sector for economic development but we came up with the policy, because the priority of the government is security and it is a constitutional obligation of any government. It is in the 1999 Constitution as amended, Section 14 Subsection 2, Article B, it is our responsibility.”
The PUNCH had reported on January 12, 2022 that no fewer than 64 people were kidnapped between January 1 and 7, 2022.
According to StatiSense, a Nigerian data consulting firm, about 5,287 kidnapping cases were recorded in Nigeria in 2021.
The minister, however, lamented that despite possessing a total of 73 million NINs, no security agency contacted the NCC to provide any information that might help in tracking down kidnappers in the last six months.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) had during the launch of the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content in Nigerian Telecoms Sector and Revised National Identity Policy for SIM Cards registration said, “The NIN will cover one of the weaknesses in our security structure. We will be able to easily identify and know the personality of Nigerians. We will identify people easily, including the crooks.”
The Federal Government had in 2020 mandated the NIN-SIM linkage for every telecom subscriber.
Pantami said, “I was in the Federal Executive Council media team presentation last week and these same questions were also asked.
“I said to them, this is what we have been doing for security and the EVC/CEO of the NCC was next to me, just like now, and I asked him if there was any time that any security institutions contacted the NCC to provide details of anyone of which he failed; he said ‘no’. He said it had never happened since I became a minister.
“Secondly, in the last six months, did they ever contact you to provide any information of which you failed to do so? He said ‘no’. So, in the last six months, no one contacted us.”
Pantami, however, stressed that some security agencies recently got approvals from the President, Buhari, to bypass the NCC and the ministry, and access the database directly.
He explained that such ‘lawful intercept’ was allowed in order to support the security agencies.