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Reps Kill N6.1B NCC SIM Card Registration Fund At Charged Session

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ABUJA, July 28, (THEWILL) - A mild drama played itself out in the House of Representatives as members were sharply divided over attempts to re-introduce the proposed N6.1 billion SIM card registration fund in the 2010 Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) Budget.

The House had last Tuesday excised the N6.1 billon voted for SIM Card registration by the NCC arguing that it was the obligation of service providers and not that of commission.

However, the N6.1 billion eventually found its way back on the proposed budget when the House reconvened for the final passage of the budget yesterday and Chairman, Business and Rules committee, Hon. Ita Enang said the item was re-introduced so that members can have another debate on it.

When he moved that the rejected item be retaken by the House, majority of the members rose to their feet in opposition to the motion. This caused uproar in the chamber and soon sparked a flurry of argument.

While supporting the motion, Chairman of the Committee on Communication, Hon. David Salako explained that the N6.1 billion is a vital aspect of the budget that would ensure that all SIM cards used in Nigerian are registered to bolster security in view of the waves of kidnapping in the country.

His argument was supported by another member of the committee, Hon. Leo Ogor, who explained that "The money will be used to buy equipments and engage more manpower for the serious task of registration of all the SIM cards in the country," he said urging members to vote in support of the provision.

But in sharp contrast to their position, Hon. Rabe Nasir (PDP/Katsina) in his argument, cited the 2003 NCC Act, in which he argued that it was clearly spelt out that it would be the duty of the NCC to ensure that all GSM operators duly register all their subscribers.

"We cannot take the burden of the operators while they smile home with all the profits they have been making," he said.

While the House was getting rowdy over the matter, Hon. Ita Enang again, rose to say that the House was misled by Nasir. That Nasir had abused his (Enang) privilege by deceiving the House. But his voice was soon drowned in a cacophony of, "no! no! no!".

Sensing the tension, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Bayero Nafada, who was the presiding officer, put the motion into voice voting.

Those against the SIM card registration fund were clearly in the majority but the Deputy Speaker was not satisfied. There were protest from the nays, but Nafada ignored them, and put the motion into another vote. Again the voice of the opposition was clear and louder. But, the Deputy Speaker refused to rule on it. A protest from the nays automatically erupted. Proceedings on the floor was suspended as members squared to each other. The Deputy Speaker then went into consultation.

After about thirty minutes of rowdiness, Nafada managed to bring the House under control. Again he put the matter into another voting. This time, the voice of the opposition was so resounding high, that he had no option than to hit his gavel to endorse the rejection of the SIM card registration fund.