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REPORT: 9Mobile staff defrauds SIM replacement subscribers, but magt is unaware

Service for SIM replacement is free, says 9mobile

MARY Adeniyi, 9Mobile Subscriber arrived at the Abuja office of Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (EMTS) at about 9 am for her Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) replacement. The firm, EMTS is widely known as 9Mobile.

From the entrance, she was directed to a 9Mobile branded Toyota Bus with Lagos registration number EKY 772 XB parked opposite the office.

This bus serves as a makeshift office meant to attend to customers’ cases of SIM replacement. It is frequently manned by two employees and supported by one additional staff that occasionally occupies the driver’s seat or hangs around the premises.

The photocopier is placed at the front seat while both 9Mobile attendants and customers manage in the bus – sat, facing each other.

I had also undergone the same process and was seated when Adeniyi came by.

“Do you have your court affidavit?” Abdulquadir Jimoh, 9Mobile staff in charge of SIM Replacement queries each subscriber that walks up to the bus for the same purpose of SIM swap. The same question was put to Adeniyi. “You will need to provide it and a valid Identity Card,” Jimoh adds.

But, at the final stage of the SIM swap process, Adeniyi was asked to pay N500 without any explanation.  He was also not given a receipt for the payment.

“Yes, he just told me to bring N500. That is what he said and that is how he has been collecting from others,” Adeniyi told me.

I asked whether she knew the number of persons she saw pay the same amount. Adeniyi responded, “more than six people.”

Are you serious? I queried. “Yes, is there any problem? She asked out of curiosity. I subsequently introduced myself and she appeared more relaxed to give an additional explanation.

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Adeniyi said she was satisfied with the service rendered because she was able to retrieve her line. From her response, it was obvious she was unaware the exercise should be free except N100 payment for the new SIM card.

“It was actually not an easy process because I could not recall the last three most frequent phone numbers I called. So he had to go through stress before he could discover the numbers,” she said.

However, like other customers, I was also a victim of exploitation. In fact, I had gone undercover to examine the process of SIM replacement which led to an earlier report.

Initially, I had thought the N500 payment could be a new policy because every other customer paid the same amount.

It could be that the sum was meant to load the newly registered SIM, I had earlier thought. But after a period of observation, none of the subscribers I observed requested a calling card.

9mobile subscribers who had visited for SIM Replacement exercise stood patiently at the entrance to the bus, waiting to be attended to.
Photo Credit: Olugbenga Adanikin, The ICIR

Out of curiosity, I visited the official website of the operator in search of the assumed policy but nothing of such was found. I had earlier studied the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) SIM registration guideline which also did not reflect payment for such service.

Eventually, I played along. In the end, Jimoh requested the same sum – N500 and I paid.

No! It is illegal, such a person should be arrested – 9mobile security expert

It took an extra effort to access the main office of the telecom operator. Eventually, I met with Foluke, a receptionist on the first floor.

I had jokingly inquired from the front desk officer about payment for SIM replacement. But, she quietly responded ‘No’.

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After so much questioning, Foluke directed me to an official who was identified as Mrs. Mohammed, one of the firm’s executives in the Human Resource Department. It was an opportunity to get a reaction to the problem of double registration. I quickly asked her a few questions, but she could not respond. “The unit responsible for this is in Lagos but I can notify her while she gets back to you.”

Jubrila Mohammed, 9Mobile Head of Security for the Northern Region swiftly indicated an interest in the matter. He wanted to know about the issue.

“Have you read the NCC rules? He asked me. “I have gone through the NCC rules,” I responded, informing him of the vital provisions which include that SIM registration should be free.

Then, he started by saying, “everything we do here is guided by the NCC rules and there are policies.”

The bus which serves as a makeshift office positioned opposite entrance to the 9mobile Abuja office, while subscribers hang around without proper treatment
Photo Credit: Olugbenga Adanikin, The ICIR

However, he was surprised to get the news that some of the licensed agents charge N1, 000 while others charge N500.

“Where…?” He shouted. “Our agents, our staff? He queried further.

“I don’t know about that. If you see any of them, please report them to the police.”

“If somebody charges you such, don’t even wait to come and investigate here,” he added. “Take him to the police first, and let him prove beyond every reasonable doubt why he should collect money.” As at this period, he was ignorant of the fact that the accomplice is his staff.

Amazingly, a police officer was among those who had visited for the same SIM replacement.

But I could not tell if the police officer was as well asked to pay the usual sum.

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A female military officer who had visited for the same purpose left due to the long queue. She had gone behind the bus, hoping she would be given preference, but she was turned down.

The 9mobile office, the argument tilted to the conclusion that the subscribers must have asked the officials to credit their account with the controversial sum.

This claim later forced me to assume the position of a victim.

“He is liable,” the head of security said.

Mohammed the female official, however, questioned why the reporter had to offer the money despite his knowledge of the NCC rules.

“I don’t know if it was a new policy because I saw few persons ahead of me pay,” the reporter responded.

“First, it would have created a scene; secondly, it would have caused a huge embarrassment for the organisation…that’s why I came here to officially verify.”

Mohammed subsequently indicated interest to arrest the accused person. “Since we have the address, we know what to do.”

Service for SIM replacement is free  – 9mobile

By 3:15 pm, Chineze Amanfo, 9Mobile Public Relations Manager, called The ICIR from the firm’s Lagos office to respond to the allegations. She categorically disclosed that SIM replacement is free except for the N100 cost of purchasing a new SIM card for the replacement.

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“EMTS does not charge a fee for carrying out SIM replacement. The only cost of a SIM replacement to a customer is the amount paid to purchase a replacement SIM card and this is presently set at N100 on the EMTS’ network,” Amanfo said.

“Any subscriber who is charged a ‘fee’ for SIM replacement or EMTS’ network is urged to immediately notify EMTS through its numerous customer contact channels.”

On the issue of double registration, “No double registrations exist on EMTS’ network. A line can only be registered to one individual at any point in time on EMTS’ network.”

Apparently, the telecom operator has not been monitoring the activities of his employees in charge of SIM swap. So long this oversight persists, subscribers such as Mary Adeniyi and others would continue to get ripped off.  One can only hope that EMTS would put an end to corrupt practices on its service delivery.

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