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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

40 million Nigerian telephone lines blocked over SIM-NIN linkage  

40 million Nigerian telephone lines blocked over SIM-NIN linkage  

About 40 million telephone lines were barred by telecommunication operators over the weekend following the expiration of the February 28, 2024 deadline issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission mandating telecom consumers to link the Subscriber Identity Module to their National Identity Numbers.

This represents a 28 million increase from the 12 million telephone lines initially planned to be deactivated by telcos, following the NCC directive.

In a December 2023 notice, the NCC had asked telcos to bar SIMs that had not been linked to their owners’ NINs by February 28, 2024.

READ ALSO: 5G network subscription already rising, as Nigeria’s broadband penetration improves, Says NCC chief

On Thursday, the NCC Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, ruled out an extension of the deadline, warning that telcos that failed to enforce the deadline would be sanctioned.

The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, said telcos would bar 12 million lines as a result of the directive.

However, on Sunday, the ALTON chair revealed that the number of barred lines had risen to 40 million, pointing out that SIMs without NIN were included in the number.

READ ALSO: Telecom operators may begin blocking Nigerians’ SIM cards today

He told The PUNCH that “I can tell you that 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. They haven’t registered their SIMs or participated in the harmonisation programme. They simply haven’t made any presentation of the NIN number to their operators and those were the persons blocked. So why is the number so alarming despite repeated warnings? It shows many people still communicate but are not registered.”

In the December 2023 notice, the NCC had also asked the Global Satellite Mobile Communications operators to bar SIMs holders whose NINs have been submitted but not verified by March 29, 2024; and interdict those who have less than five lines linked to an unverified NIN by April 15, 2024.

The Federal Government had, on December 16, 2020, introduced the SIM-NIN synchronisation initiative meant to enable security agencies to track criminals.

READ ALSO: Court bars Nigeria’s telecom operators from deactivating subscribers’ lines over NIN

The synchronisation involves validating the NIN with the National Identity Management Commission and matching the subscriber’s NIN records with the SIM registration information (verification) to ensure proper subscriber identification.

However, Nigerians have raised questions on why security agencies have not used the SIM-NIN linkage to track criminals, especially bandits and kidnappers, who often use mobile telephone lines to speak with victims’ families during ransom negotiations.

Presently, there are 224.7 million active mobile telephone lines in the country, according to the information released by the NCC on its website.

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