In the wake of increasing violence in some parts of the country, the Federal Government has declared that security remains its utmost priority, saying in the face of current existential realities, consideration for national security trumps economic interests. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami disclosed this on Thursday at a parley organized by the All Progressives Congress APC Professionals Forum which held at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
This was as government boasted of its capacity to not only meet Nigerian’s need for the Subscriber Identification Module SIM Cards, but said it is in good stead to produce such cards for phone users across the African continent and that it has also ventured into the production of Smartphones He said “In the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, security is not our mandate but when we discovered, and since we have been appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari and security is part of his priority areas, then we must support all the priority areas in the course of duty.
“This is why we always say security is even more important than economic development because based on the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, Section 14(2)(B), says security and welfare of the people is the primary responsibility of government. It is because of this we have made it clear to stakeholders in the sector that when there is a clash of interest between security and economic development, then our priority and preference is that security, not economic development. 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 or pre-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 Nigerian Communication Commission 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”.
Pantami added that his innovations in the ministry had in late 2019 and early 2020 led to a drastic reduction in kidnapping and banditry. While he conceded that criminals often try to circumvent official safeguards, the minister assured that the federal government will continue to evolve more safety measures to protect Nigerians from criminals. 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 to register 100 SIMS. So, criminals exploited that. They were buying pre-registered SIMS. Then the federal government came up with the NIN-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”.