SIM-NIN: NIMC insists on deadline, as subscribers demand extension, with over 40m lines barred

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Crisis in the country’s telecommunication sector appears to brewing as the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has insisted on barring more telephone lines over failure by subscribers to link them to the National Identity Number (NIN) scheme.

This is however, as subscribers and the rights groups in the country have demanded an extension to March 29 deadline given to telecommunication services users to link their line to the NIN or face being blocked.

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National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has requested that the NCC extend the deadline fixed for the disconnection of telephone lines not linked to National Identification Numbers (NIN) beyond Friday, March 29, 2024.

Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project issued a warning to take legal action against the NCC if it does not revoke the directive instructing network providers to block the phone lines of individuals who have not linked their SIM cards to their NINs.

The NIN-SIM linkage policy was initially introduced by the Nigerian government in December 2020. This directive requires all telephone line users in Nigeria to associate their SIM cards with their NIN.

Meanwhile, NATCOMS argued that telco agents were failing to capture all necessary information needed for verification, just as it also cited difficulties in uploading the captured data on the National Identity Management Commission’s server.

The disconnection process was rolled out in stages, with the second phase scheduled for March 29, 2024, following the initial phase that occurred on February 28, 2024.

The third phase is slated to commence on April 15, 2024, as previously announced.

President of NATCOMS, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said that the NCC needed to order telcos not to disconnect telephone lines, considering the ongoing difficulties faced by subscribers.

The telecom regulator had insisted that there would be no changes to the deadline for the next phase of disconnection

At the last deadline on February 28, 2024, about 40 million lines that were not linked to NIN were barred.

The NATCOM president said before the first deadline, subscribers had appealed to the NCC for a one-month extension. However, the NCC explained that there was no issue as the process was designed to occur in phases.

According to Ogunbanjo, the Operator’s Consumer Centre stands as the primary location for consumers to complete their registration fully, with data provided there being verifiable, even as he noted that telecom agents were bypassing crucial information during the registration process, resulting in incomplete registrations of subscribers.

“For example, during interactions with telecom representatives, some agents fail to collect all required the information from subscribers. If a subscriber cannot provide certain details, agents often leave the registration incomplete. Consequently, these incomplete registrations are deemed unverifiable,” he said.

Further, Ogunbanjo also blamed the NIMC, noting that the challenges often arise when telecom companies attempt to upload collected data on NIMC’s server, owing to network issues.

“NIMC’s inadequate network infrastructure exacerbates the problem. While they intend to accept data uploads, technical issues prevent them from doing so effectively.

“We urge the NCC to address NIMC’s shortcomings, improve their services, and acknowledge that meeting the deadline will be challenging given the current issues,” the president added.

Meanwhile, Director of Public Publicity at the NCC, Reuben Mouka, said: “We issued a publication that you can refer to. We specified certain deadlines and stipulated that subscribers who do not comply with the directive would be barred. And that has not changed.”

NIMC’s enrollment figures as of December 31, 2023, stands at over 104.16 million unique records.

About 530,345 Nigerians in Diaspora have obtained their NINs, including 59.12 million male and 45.04 million female.

However, responding, the Head of Corporate Communications, NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, insisted that the commission’s server has consistently remained operational, debunking reports suggesting otherwise, as he further emphasized that the NIMC’s services are fully functional and accessible to all users.

“Our server has never been down. You can go to the various NIN centres and confirm,” said.

Adegoke further explained the process for subscribers to link their NIN to their SIM cards.

“These individuals only need to submit their NIN and complete the verification process through their respective telcos providers”, he said.

He encouraged those who have not yet obtained their NIN to visit any NIMC centre for enrollment.

However, for those requiring corrections, such as rectifying date of birth errors, the process may take up to 72 hours.

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