Nigerians have raised concerns over the plan of the Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to start collecting the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of mobile phones of Nigerians starting from July.
The collection of the IMEI has been described by NCC as Device Management Scheme (DMS) and one of the provisions in the revised National Identity Policy for SIM Card registration.
The IMEI is a 15-digit unique number for mobile devices that identifies each individual mobile device and its model specification and can be used in the tracking of stolen phones.
BizWatch Nigeria had exclusively reported last week that the policy was introduced to discourage mobile phone theft and their use for crimes.
However, there are the concerns that the Federal Government’s access to the IMEI of mobile devices of Nigerians coupled with National Identity Number (NIN) would give the government unbridled access to phone conversations and locations of all Nigerians in breach of data privacy and human rights.
An Information Technology analyst, Nosa Iyamu said the government will have access to call logs, messages, GPS or cellular location of the phone and its users and billing account, among others through the mobile network operators.
He said, “If they have the IMEI of a phone, they can send a request to all network operators and ask if the imei is active or has been recently active, in an attempt to identify the subscriber account.
“Once the subscriber account is identified, they can with the proper warrant (or, in extenuating circumstances, waiver) obtain everything the carrier knows or has on file.”
“This includes call and message logs, GPS or cellular location of the phone (and many past locations) billing and account information, and a lot more.”
“This is too much information for one government or the set of people in charge. It’s real power in the age of social networking and online transactions and interactions.”
Despite the section 5 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution guaranteeing the privacy and protection of citizens, their homes and telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.
A Human right Activist, Segun Awosanaya, said, “This madness ends here. It is actually lawful to disregard an unconscionable order that breaches the constitutionally protected rights and privacy of the citizenry. The alleged demand for citizens’ IMEI is an overreach that must be resisted by all and sundry.”
Nigerian law enforcement agencies in the past are known for obtaining call records, tracking and arresting Nigerians without getting a court order.