Why the Deadline for Telcos to Validate/Deactivate Customers’ SIM Cards in Nigeria is problematic
By now, many Nigerians should have heard that the Nigerian Communications Commission recently gave a directive to telecom operators in the country —MTN, GLO, Airtel, and 9mobile —asking them to deactivate any customer that fails to link their SIM cards with the National Identity Numbers over the next two weeks. Just in case you missed this piece of information, below is part of the statement that was issued by the NCC last week:
“In line with the Federal Government desire to consolidate the achievement of the SIM Card registration exercise of September, 2019, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to embark on another audit of the Subscriber Registration Database again.
“The objective of the audit exercise is to verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM Card Registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Commission.
“As the Minister has earlier directed in January, 2020, all citizens are urged to immediately secure Digital Identification from the National Identity Management Commission and submit it to the Network Operators.”
As you can see from the foregoing, this directive was given since January this year. Unfortunately, not a lot of SIM owners knew about it until now. Unfortunately, millions of Nigerians have barely two weeks to comply, given the ultimatum. And this may prove to be very difficult. We have highlighted some of the challenges this ultimatum may pose.
1. Difficulty in Obtaining NIN: It will be difficult for millions of Nigerians to obtain their National Identity Number within the timeframe that is left for compliance. This is because the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which is the agency responsible for issuing the NIN and National IDs to Nigerians, has proven to be very malfunctional and grossly inefficient. There are many instances of Nigerians who have been trying, for years, to obtain their NIN and National IDs, but all to no avail. There is, therefore, no guarantee that the NIMC can be able to step up and meet the demand within this rather short period of time.
2. Non-Nigerians May be Affected: What is the government’s provision for foreigners in Nigeria who do not have NIN and cannot get one? Does this mean that they may not be able to own SIM cards in Nigeria? It will really be unfortunate if there is no provision for foreigners.
So, foreigners can’t own a SIM in Nigeria?
— Ebuka Obi-Uchendu (@Ebuka) December 16, 2020
3. Deactivating SIM Cards will Affect the Economy: Let’s be clear about one thing — a lot of Nigerians will not be able to meet the deadline. And what this means is that their SIM cards will be deactivated. If this happens, what it means is that some (if not all) of the telcos will lose money; because customers will not be able to buy airtime and data for SIM cards that are deactivated.
Also, it is important to bear in mind that a lot of business activities will be impacted, especially now that business activities are facilitated online and through phone calls.
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