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NCC explains reasons for deactivated SIM Cards previously linked to NINs

*The Nigerian Communications Commission throws more light on the rationale for telecoms operators’ blockade of several consumers’ telephone lines previously linked to their National Identification Numbers in the ecosystem

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Amid concerns several consumers have expressed over the recent development in the telecommunications industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has explained the rationale for the country’s telecoms operators deactivating millions of SIM Cards previously linked to consumers’ National Identification Numbers (NINs).

ConsumerConnect reports the Mobile Network Operators’ (MNOs) recently announced that they had barred over 40 million of telecoms subscribers’ telephone lines for failure to link their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards with their National Identification Numbers (NINs) by February 28, 2024, deadline.

The MNOs’ implementation of the regulatory directive followed NCC’s reminder to telecoms service providers to bar subscribers, who had failed to link their phone numbers to their NINs on or before February 28.

Confirming the development, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had said at least 40 million telephone lines had been barred as of last weekend.

The expert told reporters: “I can tell you that over 40 million lines have been blocked and the affected customers are those who didn’t submit their NIN at all. Some persons have not presented any NIN to operators.

“They haven’t registered their SIMs or participated in the harmonisation programme.”

Adebayo also explained: “They simply haven’t made any presentation of the NINs to their operators.

“So, why is the number so alarming, despite repeated warnings? It shows many people still communicate but are not registered.”

NCC clarifies issues with deactivated SIMs earlier linked to NINs

Clarifying the seeming confusion by lots of telecoms consumers on the issue of deactivated SIMs earlier linked to NINs, Mr. Reuben Muoka, Director of Public Affairs (DPA) at NCC, while featuring in a recent interview on Channels TV, monitored in Lagos, nonetheless, said several NINs, which some consumers had initially submitted to their Telcos were “bad”.

Muoka explained in the the interview: “People who probably didn’t get a cleared or verified NIN” had been barred because “the earlier ones they submitted were not good.”

Accordingly to him, some SIM Cards had verification and identification issues, such as disparity in information, including names and other data earlier submitted to their telecoms service providers.

“There are still some subscribers whose NINs are yet to be verified by the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, and those have to also be corrected,” Muoka said.

Strategic importance of SIM-NIN linkage, by DPA

The NCC Director of Public Affairs also noted the significance of using the mandatory SIM-NIN linkage exercise to include national planning purposes aside from the “Know Your Customer” (KYC) principle in accessing social services in both public and private sectors of the economy.

The telecoms sector regulatory Commission further explained that, amid the rising insecurity of lives and property across the land, relevant authorities can use subscribers’ NINs to track kidnappers, armed bandits and terrorists troubling Nigerians in several parts of the country.

On consumers’ growing complaints over previous SIM-MIN linkage

As several telecoms consumers have complained they had previously linked their SIMs with their NINs years, Muoka acknowledged that some telephone lines were barred because the information on their NINs did not tally with the details used when registering their SIM Cards with Telcos.

In regard to what such affected subscribers to do to get it right, the Commission said the consumers would need to revisit the outlets of their service providers to validate their NINs and resolve related matters.

However, he pointed out that doing this would require physical visits to the stations to get them verified and validated.

In the future, “we hope this will be done virtually,” he stated.

Regulator effects a closure on SIM-NIN integration

As the Commission made good its plan to get a closure on the SIM-MIN linkage, the NCC industry data indicated that as of December 2023, Nigeria had over 224 million telephone lines.

It noted MTN Nigeria had over 87 million subscribers, representing 38.79% of the total market share, becoming the highest in the country by any licensed Mobile Network Operator.

The Commission equally revealed that Globacom and Airtel had 61 million subscribers each, while 9mobile had 13.9 million users as of December last year.

Meanwhile, on the possibility of extending the deadline for the exercise, the NCC stressed the deadline would no longer be extended.

Muoka, again, noted: “Take it that everybody who has not submitted his NIN to the service providers has been barred. Actually, the service providers started barring people many days before the deadline.”

The regulatory Commission as well said it would soon carry out an audit as it expects updated data from the MNOs in Nigeria.

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