Telecom Operators Bar 40 Million Lines Following SIM-NIN Linkage Deadline

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Over the weekend, telecommunication operators in Nigeria blocked approximately 40 million telephone lines, exceeding the initial estimate of 12 million lines, as mandated by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) deadline for linking Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) to National Identity Numbers (NINs).

The deadline, which expired on February 28, 2024, prompted telecom consumers to rush to link their SIMs with their NINs to avoid disconnection. Despite warnings from the NCC Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, that there would be no extension of the deadline, some consumers failed to comply, resulting in the deactivation of their lines.

Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), initially disclosed that 12 million lines would be barred due to non-compliance. However, Adebayo later revealed that the number had surged to 40 million, with many subscribers failing to submit their NINs to their respective operators.

In an exclusive interview with The PUNCH, Adebayo stated, “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.”

The NCC had previously directed Global Satellite Mobile Communications operators to deactivate SIMs holders whose NINs were submitted but not verified by March 29, 2024. Additionally, subscribers with less than five lines linked to an unverified NIN were to be disconnected by April 15, 2024.

The SIM-NIN synchronization initiative, introduced by the Federal Government on December 16, 2020, aimed to enhance security measures by enabling authorities to track criminals. Despite the initiative, concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of using SIM-NIN linkage to combat crime, particularly in cases involving bandits and kidnappers.

As the deadline passed, telecom subscribers expressed dissatisfaction with the NCC’s decision not to extend the deadline. Adeolu Ogunbanjo, President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, indicated that legal action would be pursued if an extension was not granted by Thursday. Ogunbanjo urged the NCC to consider granting a 31-day extension to alleviate the concerns of subscribers.

While telecom operators proceed with deactivating unlinked lines, the NCC has not provided a breakdown of the affected subscribers per network. Adebayo hinted at further disconnections by the end of March and mid-April for subscribers with unverified NINs or discrepancies in their registration details.

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