The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Tuesday ordered telecoms 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).
NCC, however, gave telecoms two weeks to block the cards, warning that any telecom operators that failed to comply with the directive risked withdrawal of their license or heavy penalty.
The Federal Government had last week, through the NCC, ordered the suspension of new SIM registration by operators to allow 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 telecoms embarked on mass disconnection of SIM cards is ex-pected. First quarter (Q1) profit of telcos next year too is expected to take terrible hit.
Howbeit, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, in a 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, 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 need to consolidate the achievements of last year’s SIM registration audit and improve the performance and sanity of the sector was exhaustively discussed”.
“Stakeholders agreed that urgent drastic measures have now become inevitable to improve the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process”.
“Following decisions were taken for immediate implementation by all network operators: affirmation of the earlier directive to totally suspend the 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.”
Also, the 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, however, 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, therefore, 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.