Think You Know Biometrics?

Nigerian Police Use Biometrics
to Solve Infamous Murder Case.

Cynthia Osokogu was a general’s daughter, a former model, and a savvy businesswoman.

When she traveled to Lagos in 2012, Cynthia thought she was meeting with a group of businessmen who might be able to supply her with more cost-effective options for her clothing store.

When she landed in Lagos, she called her mother to say she had arrived safely. The next morning, Cynthia Osokogua was found dead.

She had been murdered.

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The NCC and their SIM database

In 2011, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) committed to an enormous project, and budget, that would focus registering SIM cards across the vast country. The goal was for every Nigerian mobile phone user to provide biometric information in order to authenticate their identity.

The reason for the initiative was to help law enforcement agents fight the rising tide of crime across Nigeria. Using fingerprints to link the identity of an individual with their SIM card and mobile phone number would help secure identities and lead to more arrests.

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The Arrests

Through old-fashioned police work, detectives were able to learn that Cynthia Osokogu had met her killers on social media, where they had pretended to be businessmen. They lured her to Lagos, murdered her, and then deleted all traces of their social media accounts and wiped all data from their cell phones.

However, the SIM card registration initiative played a major role in their capture.

One of the killers used Cynthia’s cell phone to make a call. When the call log was checked from the service provider, the receiver was traced to Festac Town in the Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area. That call log led to a stolen phone whose contents had been erased. However, through SIM card registration records, authorities were eventually able to trace ownership of the phone back to one of Cynthia’s killers. This helped lead to the eventual capture and arrest of the perpetrators.

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The Initiative

From the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC):

“The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration initiative – which required all mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards with their respective mobile network operators – was designed to capture the identity of mobile phone subscribers for identity and security management. The exercise involved a massive campaign by the NCC across cities and rural areas of the country, and despite the challenges, it has been adjudged to be a huge success. The registration exercise of old SIM cards was officially concluded by the NCC on June 30, 2013 while that of new SIM continue.”

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The Verdict

Two men, Echezona Nwabufor and Ezekiel Eloka, were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

The SIM card registration initiative continues in Nigeria, and is often held up as a gold standard by law enforcement agencies in the role biometrics can play in improving a nation’s security.

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