Nigerians have in their numbers voiced opposition against the Nigerian Communications Commission’s plan to obtain the International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers of their phones.
While some expressed their concerns on The PUNCH news portal, others made channelled their grievances on Twitter.
On punchng.com, WeeFree said, “Everywhere in the sensible world your phone IMEI is private, known only to you the owner of the phone and your network provider.
“The government does not have to know it unless you submit it to the police when a crime is committed or when the police/EFCC/NDLEA/DSS ask your network provided to help track it using the pairing of your IMEI with your phone line, but only when a crime is committed.
“In some sane countries, the government has to go to court to get permission before they can track your phone with either your SIM or IMEI. This citizen right to privacy protection does not exist in Nigeria.”
Javscong said, “Nigerians are gradually being led into a totalitarian/dictatorial era. First, we were required to register our SIM cards. The next stage was to require NIN registration. In both these processes, the government surreptitiously got control of all our biometric data.
“Now they want our secret phone IDs. With all that information at their disposal, it becomes easy for any Nigerian to disappear and the records will simply be wiped off. There is real evil in these machinations and it is time to say, enough is enough.”
Another reader, Amin said, “This seems a witchhunting tool to me. Where is then the privacy right of individuals when you are going to keep tracking who they call, what they say, and everyone else they are connected to? I have never heard this being done in Europe or US. The US proposed a similar thing a few years back and it was vehemently challenged until they scraped it. …And to be submitted to who? Pantami?”
Adeboye Adegoke of Paradigm Initiative while speaking to our correspondent said, “They can lie about wanting to curate these personal data for security, the reality is that they will use it to close the civic space which they have shown a tendency to do than pursue the criminals they claim they are trying to catch.
“From experience, that is what they have done. Criminal activities such as kidnapping and banditry continue unabated. But you could see the effectiveness with which EndSARS protesters were targeted. The people, who will be on the receiving end of this thing, are people who are critical of the government, opposition voices, civic society actors, journalists.”
While reacting to the story on twitter, @petteng tweeted, “This will amount to an invasion of privacy and it is already an infringement on our human rights. The government should please curb banditry, terrorism, unemployment, insecurity, hunger, nepotism among other general issues in Nigeria. I don’t think IMEI is part of the problem now.”
Voicing their anger, @Chief_ire tweeted, “Are the NIN and phone numbers no longer enough?”
@oracle_gf said, “How many of the killer herdsmen and terrorists in the North have the government arrested despite the linking of NIN and SIM?”
@TheBriDen said, “I will trek through the evil wilderness of Niger Republic, the dry scorching and dangerous deserts of Libya and serve as a slave for two years in Libya before crossing over to Europe to do prostitution than to give Isa Pandemic my IMEI number.”
Responding to The PUNCH story on Friday that the regulatory agency would require subscribers’ phone IMEIs in three months, the commission said it would rather automatically capture the phone identifying numbers without reference to subscribers.
In a statement signed by NCC’s Director, Public Affairs, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, the commission said, “At no time did the commission issue a statement regarding the registration of IMEI by subscribers and it has no plans to do so.
“The reports in question have emanated from a section of the Revised National Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration recently launched by President Muhammadu Buhari and which has been uploaded on the commission’s website.”
Adinde added, “It is pertinent to state that the commission is in the process of deploying a Device Management System.
“The DMS will essentially protect subscribers against phone theft and will identify and enable the elimination of fake devices from the networks.
“The system will capture IMEI automatically without any requirement for subscribers to submit same.