Telecommunication operators retain the records of former users of old SIM cards in their archives for legal reasons, the Chairman, Association Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, has said.
Explaining how dormant SIM cards were reassigned to new users, Adebayo said that the network system of operators usually detected and disconnected SIM cards that had remained dormant for 180 days.
He explained that phone numbers associated with each SIM card were usually leased from the Nigerian Communications Commission.
Adebayo said, “The record of the subscriber that has used the SIM card remains on the system for a bit of time. The reason is that for legal purposes.
“We cannot delete the registration record of the subscriber; we need to archive it for another period of time, which the law mandates.
“After the window of dormancy, the operator has a right to reassign the SIM card.
“Each SIM card has an associated telephone number and those numbers are leased from the NCC because we pay annual renewal fee to the commission on those numbers.”
He said mobile network operators could either return the numbers to the commission or, if they continued to pay rental on them, could reassign them as they deemed fit.
“When there is a new user that has been registered on the SIM card, you create a separate file for it. The records of the old and new users are not linked at all,” Adebayo added.
The menace of dual identity on a SIM card resurfaced when a business man from Delta State, Anthony Okolie, was arrested and detained by the Department of State Services for a period of 10 weeks for using a SIM card that was formerly used by Hannan, a daughter of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Okolie’s lawyer, Tope Akinyode, explained that the SIM card became redundant and was recycled into the market for sale.
Akinyode said Okolie’s detention was unlawful because he had the receipt for the purchase of the SIM card and all other documents.
A spokesperson with Truecaller when contacted explained that there were many ways Truecaller profiles could be updated, advising users who changed their SIM cards to deactivate their old profiles on the platform.
The spokespersons who responded to enquiries via email, said that when new users registered on Truecaller, they had the power to control and protect how their personal information was displayed for others in the community.
According to the Truecaller representative, if there is any reason a user does not want their details to be on Truecaller, they can un-list themselves.
“If a Truecaller user abuses their profile by spamming other members of our community, our users can tag and report the number. If enough users tag and report a number, it will be marked as a spammer,” she said.
She said the company had made efforts to cross-reference profiles with other sources of information, and once enough reliable information about a profile had been obtained, it would flag an alternative name for a number.
Speaking on how mistaken identity of SIM card users could be addressed, the President, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, Mr Olusola Teniola, explained that there were different levels of verification of SIM registration details.
According to him, after the registration process of subscribers, the data are verified and validated against other records.
“The problem we are facing now is that until we fully understood the parameters associated with SIM registration, the data being provided in the SIM registration database were not being verified and validated,” he said.
“Without a process being followed by the agents of the MNOs capturing data and registering SIM cards, there is a possibility that the information isn’t being processed and therefore rejected by the SIM registration database,” he added.
He said there was a need to validate the biometrics records on the National Identity System with the biometrics of subscribers taken during the SIM registration process in order to have a truly credible subscriber database.