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Mobile Operators Defy Government, Deepen Insecurity

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sim card - Investors King
  • Mobile Operators Defy Government, Deepen Insecurity

Despite the danger the illegal sale of pre-registered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards portends to the nation’s security, the practice has continued. Investigation reveals that virtually all the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are involved in the illegality.

Agents clad in the aprons of the service providers have been spotted in the Lagos areas of Island, Ikeja, Airport Road, Ikotun, Ojuelegba, Yaba and Oshodi, and in Mararaba Nyanyan, Berger and Wuse in Abuja.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) views the sale or use of pre-registered SIM cards as an offence attracting a fine or jail term or both. An indicted telecom company risks a N200,000 fine for every pre-registered card.

MTN was fined about $5.2 billion in October 2015, after it was discovered that some 5.2 million lines on its network were not properly registered. Other operators including Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat (now 9Mobile) were also fined about N100 million four years back.

Investigations showed that competition among the operators is a major factor fuelling the menace. But also, some Nigerians, ignorant of the dangers they are courting, prefer to simply buy pre-registered cards, rather than spend a few minutes inputting their details into a computer.

According to an Abuja-based security expert, Chukwuma Alozie, the purchase of such cards would appeal to criminal elements. He urged relevant authorities to monitor the service providers closely. He regretted that ignorance and the high rate of joblessness in the country were causing many unsuspecting youths to be lured into attaching their biometric details to multiple SIM cards.

“Hardly do they know that very soon they would be held for high crimes committed by those who bought the cards. They are not even aware that when many criminals use these cards, it confers the status of ‘hardened criminal’ on the unsuspecting registrants. They risk spending their lives in jail or dying at the gallows for crimes they did not commit,” said Alozie.

At a recent workshop in Gombe, organised by the NCC for law enforcement agencies on telecommunications matters, Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris described the sale and use of pre-registered SIM cards as a grave threat to security and governance.

According to him, “Criminal activities, including the use of pre-registered SIM cards, should be of concern to all of us. As a law enforcement officer, it is my belief that in addressing these challenges, we must re-strategise on our noble programme of community policing across communities and give our communities greater stake in securing national assets.”

The June subscriber statistics from the NCC showed that the operators have connected 243.9 million telephone lines with 162.8 million active. On this, MTN controls 40.9 per cent, amounting to 66.5 million customers; Globacom has 40.1 million subscribers and enjoys 24.7 per cent market share. Airtel with 39.9 million subscribers earns 24.6 per cent market control, while 9Mobile with 9.7 per cent market share services 9.7 million customers. The country has a teledencity of 116 per cent.

The problem is a recurring embarrassment to the industry, said Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, president of the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), urging the NCC to take drastic action.

He said some operators, who give permission to agents to start registering their (operators’) SIMs are to blame. “Because these agents want to register more and make some money, they just register anyhow, put a face on the profile and that is it,” he said.

According to him, the sharp practice is fuelled by competition among the operators. “They are the ones that should ensure due diligence is done. Perhaps, they should stop registration or start registering one person or two and keep a tab on them in the rural areas. But in the cities, they have enough customer care centres. Rather than them giving authority to some small boys, who would put them into trouble, they can get educated agents and ensure they supervise them regularly.”

The NATCOMS president also stressed the need for the enforcement arm of the NCC to step up its work.

The chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, in an email response to The Guardian enquiry on the matter, said: “We need to continue to ensure compliance and sanctions on established willful infractions.”

Responding to The Guardian inquiry on what his office is doing to curb the menace, the Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu said handling the problem was the responsibility of the NCC, “while the ministry handles the formulation of broad policy issues.”

The executive vice chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, on his part, maintained that selling pre-registered SIM cards is an act of illegality that undermines national security.

Danbatta, who did not rule out sanctions for any operator found culpable, urged Nigerians that rather than patronise criminals who peddle pre-registered cards, “the public should report them to law enforcement agencies, as part of their responsibility, not only as subscribers but also as good citizens.”

Describing the menace as grievous, he noted: “Our Compliances Monitoring and Enforcement Department is currently going round the country with a view to fishing out the perpetrators.”

Late last year, farmers in northern Nigeria urged wireless operators to block SIM cards that had not been formally registered, saying they aided the operations of Boko Haram.

An online news platform had quoted the head of the region’s association of small-holder farmers, Mohammed Sani, saying: “We will stage a protest against MTN and take necessary legal action, if it fails to comply with this directive.”

But MTN Nigeria’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Omasan Ogisi, in an email, said the telecommunications firm condemns any illegality including the sale and distribution of pre-registered SIM cards.

For her, the firm always takes punitive actions against agents found engaging in the illicit activity. The measures include blacklisting and withdrawal of SIM registration devices used for such an illegality.

“SIM registration kits/devices have been tagged to specific agents. And as such, we are able to tell which kit and agent is responsible for registering a SIM card and hand over such to law enforcement authorities for prosecution,” she said.

According to her, MTN has established partnerships with law enforcement authorities in places where such activities are prevalent. “By virtue of such partnerships, we are able to point them in the direction of such locations, so that they can apprehend the culprits and let the law take its natural course,” she said.

For her, the firm engages in periodic/continuous public awareness campaigns, highlighting the need for subscribers to desist from purchasing such SIM cards and ensures that they personally register the SIM cards they intend to use.

Also, 9Mobile’s acting director, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Seyi Osunsedo, said the firm strictly enforces rules that limit the ability of its trade agents to pre-register SIM cards.

She said: “We have since implemented the NCC’s rule mandating telcos to block any registered SIM card, which is not used within 48 hours after registration. This helps ensure that even if a line is pre-registered, the agent is unable to keep it on sale for more than 48 hours.

“In addition, our registration systems are designed to ensure that only validly registered lines are activated and if a line is not validly registered; such is unlikely to be activated even if purchased.”

Noting that pre-registered lines are typically listed using false details, she said: “9mobile continuously explores ways to further strengthen existing checks, to help prevent the pre-registration of lines. 9mobile also conducts spot checks, which have led to the arrest and prosecution of individuals found to be selling pre-registered 9mobile lines.

“9mobile also continuously educates its subscribers on the risks associated with purchasing pre-registered lines and the need to ensure that their lines are registered in their names and with their details.”

Airtel and Globacom were yet to respond as at press time.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Goya Foods Takes Legal Action to Assert ‘Goya Olive Oil’ Trademark Ownership

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Goya Foods

“Goya Olive Oil” trademark in Nigeria, Goya Foods Incorporated has initiated legal proceedings against the Registrar of Trademarks under the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment.

The case, numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/883/2023, was brought before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Goya Foods, a prominent producer and distributor of foods and beverages across the United States, Spanish-speaking countries, and Nigeria, seeks to enforce a longstanding consent judgment issued by the court in December 2006.

The judgment directed the Registrar to rectify the Trademarks Register to reflect Goya Foods Incorporated as the rightful owner of the “Goya Olive Oil” trademark, without any further formalities.

The lawsuit, exclusively revealed to sources, underscores Goya Foods’ determination to safeguard its intellectual property against alleged infringements.

According to court documents, Goya Foods obtained the consent judgment against Chikason Industries Limited, which was accused of marketing “Goya Olive Oil” in Nigeria, thus infringing on Goya Foods’ registered trademark.

Legal counsel for Goya Foods, Ade Adedeji, SAN, emphasized the necessity of rectifying the Trademarks Register to protect their trademark interests effectively.

Despite appeals to the Registrar, the requested rectification has not been implemented, prompting Goya Foods to escalate the matter through legal channels.

The case has been adjourned to September 27, 2024, for further proceedings, highlighting the complexity and significance of trademark disputes in the global marketplace.

Goya Foods remains committed to upholding its brand integrity and securing its proprietary interests amidst the evolving landscape of international trademark law.

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IOCs Accused of Blocking Direct Crude Sales to Dangote Refinery

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Dangote Refinery

Dangote Industries Limited (DIL) has accused International Oil Companies (IOCs) of obstructing direct crude oil sales to its refinery and forcing the company to use costly middlemen.

This development comes after a statement by the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) suggested a “willing buyer-willing seller” dynamic was in place as mandated by the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).

Devakumar Edwin, Vice President of DIL, countered NUPRC CEO Gbenga Komolafe’s claims, stating that IOCs consistently make it difficult for local refiners by pushing sales through international trading arms, which inflate prices and bypass Nigerian laws.

“These middlemen earn unjustified margins on crude produced and consumed within Nigeria,” Edwin stated.

He noted that only one local producer, Sapetro, has sold directly to DIL, while others insist on using trading arms abroad.

Edwin detailed the financial impact, citing instances where DIL was charged a $2-$4 premium per barrel above the official price.

In April, DIL paid $96.23 per barrel for Bonga crude, which included significant premiums, compared to a much lower premium for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude.

While acknowledging NUPRC’s support in resolving some supply issues, Edwin urged the regulatory body to revisit pricing policies to ensure fair market practices.

“Market liquidity is essential for fair pricing. We hope NUPRC addresses these issues to prevent price gouging,” he stated.

This dispute highlights ongoing challenges in Nigeria’s oil sector, where domestic refiners struggle to secure local crude amidst complex market dynamics.

The outcome of these negotiations could significantly impact the refinery’s operations and broader industry practices.

The situation underscores the need for transparent and efficient crude supply systems to bolster Nigeria’s refining capacity and economic growth.

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Dangote’s $20 Billion Refinery to Begin Petrol Sales Next Month

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Petrol - Investors King

Aliko Dangote announced on Monday that his long-awaited $20 billion refinery complex will commence petrol sales starting next month.

The announcement came during a press briefing held at the refinery site in Lagos, where Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, detailed the project’s progress and future plans.

“We are proud to announce that the Dangote Refinery will begin selling petrol from August,” Dangote stated confidently.

“This milestone marks the culmination of years of meticulous planning, construction, and overcoming numerous challenges.”

Dangote’s refinery, touted as the largest single-train refinery in the world, is designed to process 650,000 barrels of crude oil per day once fully operational.

The facility aims to not only meet Nigeria’s domestic demand for refined petroleum products but also contribute significantly to export markets across West Africa.

“We have entered the steady-state production phase earlier this year, and now we are ready to begin commercial sales,” Dangote explained. “Initially, we will focus on petrol production, with plans to expand our product range as we ramp up to full capacity.”

The refinery’s launch is expected to alleviate Nigeria’s longstanding dependence on imported refined products, thereby boosting the country’s energy security and reducing foreign exchange outflows associated with fuel imports.

Beyond petrol sales, Dangote revealed ambitious plans to list both the refinery and its associated fertilizer plant on the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) by the first quarter of 2025.

This move aims to attract broader investor participation and unlock additional value for shareholders.

“We are committed to transparency and accountability in our operations,” Dangote emphasized. “Listing these subsidiaries on the NGX will not only strengthen our corporate governance framework but also enhance the refinery’s financial sustainability.”

Challenges and Future Prospects

Despite celebrating the imminent commencement of petrol sales, Dangote acknowledged challenges encountered during the project’s execution, including delays in securing land for a petrochemical facility in Ogun State, which incurred substantial costs.

“We faced bureaucratic hurdles that resulted in significant delays and financial losses,” Dangote lamented. “Nevertheless, we remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing Nigeria’s industrial capabilities and contributing to economic growth.”

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