IMEI: Nigerians Data Unsafe With Pantami – Aisha Yesufu

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BBOG convener and human rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, has stated that the data of Nigerians are not safe with Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, who was accused of being a terrorist sympathizer.

Yesufu made this known on Friday in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH. She was reacting to a directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission that Nigerians will have to submit the International Mobile Equipment Identity of their phones to the commission from July.

The IMEI number is a 15-digit number unique to each phone. With it, a phone can be tracked and located irrespective of the cellular number in it.

According to the NCC, the move would enable it “to curtail the counterfeit mobile phone market, discourage mobile phone theft, enhance National Security, protect consumer interest, increase revenue generation for the government, reduce the rate of kidnapping, mitigate the use of stolen phones for crime, and facilitate blocking or tracing of stolen mobile phones and other smart devices”.

But speaking on Friday, Yesufu said it is neither wise nor safe for Nigerians to submit their phone identities to the NCC under Pantami.

Pantami, a member of the President’s cabinet from Gombe State, heads the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in charge of the Nigerian Communications Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, National Identity Management Commission, Nigerian Postal Service, amongst others.

Pantami has been under fire of late over his past pro-Taliban and Al-Qaeda comments but the minister claimed he has renounced his radical views.

Many Nigerians have since called for his resignation or sacking. The Presidency, however, exonerated him, saying he made those comments when he was young and naïve.

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Yesufu said it is worrisome that Pantami is still in government despite the outrage that greeted his pro-Taliban comments last month.

She said, “The minister of communications is a terrorist sympathiser even though he tries to deny it initially but when the overwhelming evidence of what he had done came out, he then said he did it in his younger age. Somebody in his late 30s was not a young person.

“Somebody who has sided with terrorist groups like Boko Haram now at the helm of affairs, I am not going to submit my details in his custody.

“He is not supposed to be the minister of communications; he ought to have been sacked right now. The terrorists have one of their own in such a sensitive place and I am not going to put my information in his care. Handing any information to him is not wise at all. He shouldn’t be at the helm of such sensitive ministry.”

We had earlier reported that Yesufu said she would not link her SIM card with her National Identification Number.

On December 15, 2020, Pantami declared that all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies would be blocked.

After issuing many deadlines, the minister said the SIM-NIN linkage exercise has been extended till June 30, 2021 but many Nigerians have been hesitant to link their SIM cards with their NIN, citing data privacy.

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