- 25m subscribers might be affected
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Tuesday gave telecommunication companies two weeks to block subscriber identity module (SIM) cards that are not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN) usually issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
It warned that any telecom operators that failed to comply with the directive risked withdrawal of its licence or heavy penalty.
Last week the Federal Government, through the NCC, ordered the suspension of new SIM registration by operators to allow an auditing of duly registered SIM cards.
But stakeholders in the industry fear that about 25 million subscribers will be affected by the directive while another stampede reminiscent of what happened in 2015 when telcos embarked on mass disconnection of SIM cards is expected. First quarter (Q1) profit of telcos next year too is expected to take terrible hit.
Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, in a statement, explained: “Following the earlier directive on the suspension of new SIM registration by network operators, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) convened an urgent meeting of key stakeholders in the Communications industry on Monday, December 14, 2020.”
The meeting had in attendance the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Management of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the NIMC, as well as the CEOs and management staff of all service providers in the industry, Adinde said.
He said the gathering examined “the need to consolidate the achievements of last year’s SIM registration audit and improve the performance and sanity of the sector was exhaustively discussed”.
According to him, “stakeholders agreed that urgent drastic measures have now become inevitable to improve the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process”.
He said the meeting resolved that the “following decisions were taken for im-mediate implementation by all network operators: affirmation of the earlier directive to totally suspend registration of new SIMs by all operators; operators to require all their subscribers to provide valid NIN to update SIM registration records; the submission of NIN by subscribers to take place within two weeks (from today December 16, 2020 and end by 30 December, 2020); after the deadline, all SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks’’.
“A Ministerial Task Force comprising the Minister and all the CEOs (among others) as members is to monitor compliance by all networks; violations of this directive will be met by stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating license; the general public is hereby urged to ensure that their NINs are captured in their SIM registration data.”
The statement noted that all inconveniences which might be occasioned by the directive are deeply regretted.
Former President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Olusola Teniola, said the two weeks’ window was tight considering that there are 205 million active subscribers on the network while NIMC has so far captured 43million people.
He said the 43 million, most of who would be having multi-SIM cards, would be integrated with through NIMC API while those that do not have NIN will be disconnected.
Teniola said there would be panic considering the capacity of NIMC, especially during the yuletide when people would want to get across to loved ones through voice calls and text messages but would not because they must have been disconnected from the system. This, he said, would inevitably lead to shortfall in Q1 profit of the telcos.
But ATCON President Ikechukwu Nnamani is, however, optimistic about the success of the directive.