According to a report by The PUNCH, security operatives can now access the Subscriber Information Module profile of a mobile phone user who is under criminal investigation within 60 minutes of filing a request.
The SIM profile refers to a set of parameters that allow devices to authenticate against and gain access to a cellular network.
The National Identity Number, it was gathered, has also helped to significantly improve the quality of the information received on criminal elements.
This is happening against the backdrop of the rise in kidnappings, banditry and killings by armed hoodlums across the country.
The PUNCH gathered that the police, Department of State Services and the military were empowered to access a telecom subscriber’s SIM profile for investigative purposes.
Telecom operators, our correspondent learnt, have been directed to provide security agencies with the location of a specific mobile phone or smart device to aid any criminal investigation.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, had in February disclosed that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had granted approval to some security agencies to access the database of the National Identity Management Commission in the course of carrying out their duties.
This, he said, would enhance security and help security operatives to go after kidnappers and other criminals.
The minister, who said this on the sidelines of LEAP 22, a technology event, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, however, revealed that despite possessing a total of 73 million NINs, no security agency contacted the Nigerian Communication Commission to provide any information that might help in tracking down kidnappers in the last six months.
A source said, “The Ministry has ensured that timely provision of profiles of SIM card owners is made to security agencies within 60 minutes of request. The NIN, being a requirement for SIM card registration, has also helped to significantly improve the quality of the information received.
“Security agencies are empowered to lawfully intercept communications for the purpose of their investigations. Mobile Network Operators have geo-location capabilities which enable them to provide security agencies with the location of a specific mobile phone or smart device in aid of any criminal investigation.
“The NCC has established an Investigation and Reporting Application which provides the Office of the National Security Adviser direct access to law enforcement agencies in aid of investigations.”
A report said over 151m registered subscriber data had been transmitted to the central database by Mobile Network Operators.
“These records are undergoing duplication scrubbing via an Automated Fingerprint Identification Software and valid registrations are available for use by the security community,” it explained.
When contacted on Tuesday, police spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi, said he needed to speak with detectives and intelligence officers about the initiative and its impact on their operations before he can comment on it.
The DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, did not respond to a request for comment.
But an Intelligence and Security Risk Management Consultant, Kabir Adamu, tasked the NCC to ensure that requests for private data of citizens meet the guidelines.
On the alleged failure of the security agencies to request for data on kidnappers and other criminals, the security expert said, “I’m aware that there is a frosty relationship between the security agencies and the Ministry of Communications and this is a legacy of our military era where security agencies have created silos and they don’t see each other as a team whose cooperation would give them a better result.”
He added, “The coordinating agency must ensure that the security organisations understand the relevance of working together while taking advantage of the innovation the ministry is bringing on board.”