Often times, Nigerians experience or know of people who have experienced mobile phone theft, when commuting to work or other places. This can be a very bitter experience which often causes great inconvenience and oftentimes the victim is left with no choice than to purchase a new set of mobile phone. The stolen phones are then sold to unsuspecting individuals at ridiculous low prices.
GSMA has in the past, worked with telcos, in other parts of the world to help reduce this menace. And I think this practice should be adopted in Nigeria, as it would go a long way in curbing the stolen phone menace as well as reducing insecurity and other terror related offences.
The GSMA practice first involves the individual to identify his/her IMEI (International Mobile equipment Identity), a 15 or 17 digit code that uniquely identifies mobile phones. An individual can obtain his/her IMEI by pressing *#06# from the keypad.
When the phone is stolen, the individual then contacts his/her service provider to report the incident and ask to blacklist the mobile phone by providing his/her IMEI.
Under this practice, service providers develop a database of black listed mobile phones which they share with other service providers to prevent the use of blacklisted mobile phones on their networks.
The database can further be made publicly available to police officials and the general public so that the public can check that the mobile phone they are about to purchase has not been reported stolen or lost. This has been implemented in the US in partnership with GSMA as a stolen phone checker initiative.
In Nigeria, the Government has mandated the registration of SIM cards to curb insecurity and terrorism. At the point of SIM registration, the individual can also be assisted to register their IMEI, associated with their devices.
When an individual desires to transfer the mobile phone ownership to another individual (as sometimes happens), he/she can contact his/her service provider to update the database, which would be shared with other service providers.
If implemented in Nigeria, this practice would no doubt help to curb the stolen phone menace, reduce the risk of purchasing stolen or lost phones and most importantly assist law enforcement officials in tracing and tracking criminals or terrorists.