How the possession of a “used phone” may lead to an individual’s arrest

A vast majority of Nigerians subscribe to the idea of buying a second-hand phone, mainly because these phones are relatively inexpensive and no law officially bans the importation and sale of used phones in the country. However, the Commander of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Nigeria Police Force, Tunji Disu has warned Nigerians that they may be and arrested and subsequently overseas, should they travel with such phone.

“You may go to jail if you take your “London used phones” (second-hand phones) to Uk, US, Germany, South Africa, etc, as most of the “London used phones” have been flagged off as robbed, stolen or been used for fraud. We confirm recoveries of such phones in Lagos. Be warned!”, the Commander advised on Twitter.

In April, The Sun UK in a report revealed that the boom in London-used phones in Nigeria, especially Lagos, may not be unconnected to the growing number of smartphone theft in the UK. According to the report, “MOPED thugs are snatching tens of thousands of phones on UK streets to supply a booming black market run by crime lords in Nigeria.”

Sun investigators discovered “UK used” iPhones being sold for £560 in stores and markets in Nigeria’s largest city Lagos. Business is booming for the Nigerian racketeers because of soaring demand from the oil-rich middle classes in a country where hi-tech gadgets are relatively scarce.

Additionally, Sun UK further revealed that Nigeria’s lack of phone network regulation makes it an easy target for crooks. Countries across Europe, the US and South America have signed a deal to effectively blacklist stolen devices. It gives each phone a unique number which is added to a global database when it is reported stolen — making it useless in those nations who are part of the agreement.

But Nigeria is yet to sign up. And a mobile industry source said: “By staying off the blacklist they are creating the market for stolen mobile phones. If all nations stood together, a mobile would be useless once reported stolen. But countries like Nigeria are effectively inviting illicit imports.”

For as long as Nigeria does not impose a law that blacklists stolen phones, citizens will continue to purchase and used these flagged off phones. They, however, stand a high risk of imprisonment if arrested outside the country with such phone.

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