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Why NCC redirects telecoms firms to block SIMs without NINs link

*MTN Nigeria assures that as a law-abiding corporate citizen, and in line with its operating licence requirements, the company is committed to complying with the industry-wide directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission as the industry regulator

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Sequel to its earlier directive handed down to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), in 2022, to restrict outgoing calls (one-way barring) for telecoms subscribers whose lines are not linked with the National Identification Numbers (NINs), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), again, has directed MTN Nigeria Communications, Airtel Networks, Globacom Limited, and other telecommunications firms to “fully bar” phone lines without National Identification Numbers and those whose NINs have not been verified, by February 28, 2024.

ConsumerConnect reports MTN Nigeria has affirmed the NCC’s latest directive in a corporate notice the leading Telco filed at the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, stating the instruction from telecoms regulatory Commission, and the attached deadlines for the barring such SIMs without NINs.

Confirming the Commission’s directive, Uto Ukpanah, Company Secretary at MTN, in a statement said: “This is part of an industry-wide directive that requires phone lines for which the subscribers have not submitted their NINs to be barred on or before 28 February 2024.

“With regard to NINs that have been submitted but not verified, such lines are to be barred on or before 29 March 2024, where five or more lines are linked to an unverified NIN.”

Ukpanah stated: “Similarly, where less than five lines are linked to an unverified NIN, such lines are to be barred on or before 15 April 2024.

“All affected subscribers must be verified (biometrics and biodata) before their lines are unbarred.”

The statement noted that MTN encouraged affected subscribers to submit their NINs for verification before the new deadlines for linking their SIMs to their National Identification Numbers in the Nigerian telecoms ecosystem.

The company also said: “As part of these efforts, we are enhancing the capacity of our various service outlets to make the process smoother and more efficient.

“We are committed to ensuring that our subscribers comply with the NCC directive and will continue to work with the National Identity Management Commission to accelerate the NIN verification process.”

The MNO equally expressed its willingness to work with the Federal Government in ensuring compliance with the industry-wide directive from NCC.

Ukpanah stated: “As a law-abiding corporate citizen, and in line with our operating licence requirements, we are committed to complying with the industry-wide directive from the NCC and will provide further updates to investors on progress and potential impact with the release of FY 2023 results.”

It is recalled that the Commission last year, had issued an order to Telcos to suspend mobile numbers of people without NINs before this year.

The NCC, in a statement at the time had directed the suspension of the registration of new SIM Cards by all Mobile Network Operators in the West African country.

The telecoms sector regulator also gave a new reglation that requires telecoms consumers to provide their National Identification Numbers to update SIM registration records before December 30, 2022.

According to the announcement, all SIMs without NIN wwould be blocked, and any network operators that failed to comply with the directive could lose their operating licences.

Likewsie, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), an organisation set up to operate the national identity database in Nigeria, also had revealed that only 38 percent of Nigerians have any form of identification as of the time last year.

By implication, a lot of Nigerians are still not recognised by the NIMC, and the the situation remains a matter of concern to the Commission, according to report.

SIM registration began April 2010 after the NCC had ordered mobile network subscribers to provide personal information and submit biometric scans in order to register their SIM Cards with a view to “improving the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process” in Nigeria.

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