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Subscribers Groan as Telecoms Operators Begin Deactivation of SIM Cards Not Linked to NIN

Subscribers Groan as Telecoms Operators Begin Deactivation of SIM Cards Not Linked to NIN

Emma Okonji

About 37 million telecoms subscribers across networks have been affected by the recent order given to telecoms operators to deactivate all Subscriber Identification Module (SIM cards) that were not linked to the National Identification Number (NIN). 

The affected subscribers are worried that they could not make outgoing calls from their SIM cards, and have become incommunicado because their SIM cards have been deactivated, following the directive from the federal government to deactivate all unlinked SIM cards. 

According to statistics obtained by THISDAY from the website of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, Nigeria has a total of 198,127,431 active subscriber lines across network as at February this year, but the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, who gave the order to deactivate all unlinked SIM cards, said before the order was given few day ago, 125 million subscribers have had their NINs submitted for immediate linkage, verification and authentication. 

Given the total number of 198 million active lines across networks, and the 125 million subscribers that have submitted their NINs, it shows that over 73 million active lines have not been submitted for linkage, and they must have been affected by the federal government’s order.

However, given the understanding that a single subscriber has more than two lines registered to his/her name, THISDAY deduced that on the average, about 37 million subscribers must have been affected by the order and can no longer make calls.

Some of the subscribers who spoke to THISDAY, complained bitterly that even after complying with the federal government’s order to register, obtain NIN and link NIN to SIM, they were still affected, because they suddenly discovered that they could no longer make calls with their lines.

Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, told THISDAY that telecoms operators began the enforcement to deactivate all unlinked SIM cards, immediately after the order was given to them on Monday this week, by the NCC, as directed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy. 

According to Adebayo, “We, The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) can confirm that our members have received formal directives from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to bar out-going calls on subscriber lines that are not in compliance with the NIN-SIM linkage Policy requirement that all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIMs) must be linked with a National Identification Number (NIN). ALTON members are committed to complying with the instructions and call on telecommunication subscribers who have not obtained and/or linked a NIN to their SIMs, to do so at any of the designated centres.”

Adebayo further said ALTON remained committed to supporting the federal government of Nigeria and upholding the rights of citizens to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications. 

The federal government, through the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, on Monday this week, directed NCC to order all telecoms operators to bar all unlinked SIM cards with immediate effect. 

The recent order came 16 months after the federal government gave the first order in December 2020 to deactivate all SIM cards that were not registered and linked to NIN.

Pantami, had in December 2020, directed the NCC to order telecoms operators to deactivate any SIM card that was not duly registered and linked to subscribers’ NIN, after the initial December 31, 2020 deadline, given for NIN-SIM linkage.

Pantami in a statement, said “President Muhammadu Buhari gave the directive for the implementation and commencement of the exercise in December 2020, as part of the administration’s security and social policies. The deadlines for the NIN-SIM linkage have been extended on multiple occasions to allow Nigerians to freely comply with the Policy.”

Pantami further said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the implementation of the Policy with effect from the 4th of April, 2022. Consequently, the federal government has directed all telcos to strictly enforce the Policy on all SIMs issued (existing and new) in Nigeria.”

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