You are here: HomeNews2022 05 08Article 552308

Business News of Sunday, 8 May 2022


‘Linking SIMs with NIN will curb cybercrime’ - Oniya

Stephen Adetutu Oniya, CEO of Softcity Group Stephen Adetutu Oniya, CEO of Softcity Group

Stephen Adetutu Oniya, CEO of Softcity Group, is a chartered information technology professional and member, Computer Professional Registration Council and Institute of information Management (Africa), with entities in Nigeria, South Africa and the United States of America. In this interview with Gboyega Alaka, Oniya speaks on the recent ban on SIMs unlinked to NIN by telecom operators, ensuing controversies about cybercrime, emerging blockchain technology and other related issues. Excerpts:

What is your take on the recent ban on SIMs unlinked to NIN by telecom operators in Nigeria?

While the government has good intentions, the move was far too sudden. Already, we have heard of incidents where telecom subscribers claimed they linked their SIM with their NIN, yet got barred. To stop people from using telecom services abruptly would hurt the economy, affecting both the government and the people.

What could cause subscribers who claim they already linked their SIMs with their NIN to still get barred?

So many modalities must have come to play. First, it could have been an error from the telecoms operators. They may have included the wrong set of subscribers in a rush to effect the ban. Another reason could be that the subscribers had incomplete registration either at the NIMC portal or at the point of linking their number. Then again, there is the possibility that the affected users had linked their NIN to too many SIM cards, causing the most recent registration to fail. Also, there could have been a problem with the backend integration from NIMC.

Why is linking SIM cards to NIN important?

The linking of SIM cards to NIN is a pragmatic approach to ensuring personal and national security in a digitised economy. It would reduce the risk of identity theft, among other nefarious activities. The NIN serves to identify one as a citizen of Nigeria. Let’s take the prevalence of cybercrime, terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping as an example; when one’s NIN is linked to the phone number used in making calls, it is easier for the government to trace the perpetrators of the crime through their communication.

How will having a NIN minimise instances of cybercrime in Nigeria?

The NIN contains vital records about every Nigerian, including biometrics and demographic information. Through the NIN, it is easy for financial institutions and the government to monitor the transactions of individuals and flag suspicious transactions. It also reduces the risk of impersonation, as it helps verify the identity of people involved in a financial or business transaction.

Aside from NIN verification, how else can cybercrime be eliminated from Nigeria?

To eliminate the problem of cybercrime, we will have to get to the root reasons people venture into cybercrime in the first place. I believe young people venture into cybercrime for many reasons: poverty, influence, and the wrong value system. I don’t think people go into cybercrime solely because of poverty. There are many other ways out of poverty. It is easy for young people to get carried away by a flashy lifestyle. But when you combine poverty with the wrong company and the lack of willpower to follow the long hard but straightforward road, moral decadence sets in.

The best way to reduce cybercrime is to provide an alternative way out for young people while providing a support system that positively influences them and instills them with the right values. I mean that young people need to learn the importance of patience, hard work, and diligence. But they also have to see that these qualities matter. So, there’s the need to share more success stories of people who made it the right way. If the public and private sectors can collaborate on schemes that help our youth hone their skills while providing a soft landing pad as they develop, it would take their eyes off wanting the flashy life while inculcating in them excellent life values.

Are there high-value skills young people can learn to improve themselves?

Yes, tech is the driver of innovation and will open many possibilities even in the distant future. Young and old alike should get their foot in the door of tech and ICT. Skills such as Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Software Engineering, and Design will always be relevant, even in years to come. Also, they are high-paying skills in large demand today.

A lot of Nigerians still don’t understand what blockchain is all about. Tell us about it.

Blockchain is an innovation in digital record-keeping that lets people store information in a way that cannot be altered or deleted.

You just talked about blockchain in the context of record keeping. But a lot of people associate it with finance, money, and digital currencies. How do you reconcile these different concepts?

Blockchain is a system of recording transactions or information. It is a platform with many use cases, one of which is minting digital currencies. Blockchain can also be used to store other data.

How will that work?

Think of the blockchain as a form of ledger. When you enter information on the blockchain, it groups it with other transactions taking place at that time and stores it as a block, which would correspond to a page in your ledger book. This latest block is now linked to the last grouped entry on the platform, which is also a block of data. The interesting part about the blockchain is its security system. One block of data contains three important elements: the data, a hash, and the previous block’s hash. The data is the information stored on the block, the record of the transaction. The hash is like a digital signature that identifies that block as unique. The previous block’s hash is added to the new block so that no other hash can be added in between. It also means that the information on both blocks cannot be changed, as that would mean changing the information of all the blocks in the chain. As more blocks are added to the chain, the credibility of blockchain keeps improving.

What are other popular use cases of blockchain?

Blockchain can be used to store information such as medical records, court documents, a notice of contracts awarded, and financial documents of an organisation, among others.

Besides end-users, can the government and other organisations benefit from blockchain technology?

Yes, the benefits of blockchain are manifold. It helps in transparent documentation, which is critical to the level of accountability we desire, particularly in Nigeria. If records of projects, budgets, and expenditures are out in the open and cannot be tampered with, it will reduce cases of misappropriation of funds and embezzlement. Also, blockchain operates as what is called a distributed ledger. This means all the information stored on the platform is not held on a central server. Every member of the network can see what is going on in real-time. People on the platform can raise the alarm if they notice anything fishy.

But when you talk about security, doesn’t blockchain facilitate the ease of transactions in fraudulent instances and against the law and conduct of most nations?

Truly, blockchain technology has its negative sides, but so do other innovations. Yet, the negatives do not trump its glaring advantages. One way out may be to put in place legislation and regulations to curb the rate at which hideous transactions fly below the radar.

Join our Newsletter!