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Telecom operators may begin blocking Nigerians’ SIM cards today

Telecom operators may begin blocking Nigerians’ SIM cards today

About 11.2 million active Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards yet to be linked to their owners’ National Identity Numbers (NINs) may be blocked today.

Telecom operators confirmed said this was in compliance with the directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

NCC’s executive vice chairman, Aminu Maida, had on Wednesday reiterated the commission’s directive to telecom operators to block phone lines not linked to NINs by February 28, 2024.

Read Also: NCC raises new alarm, says USB drives could be used for cyber-attacks

He spoke in Kaduna at the NCC’s Special Day during the ongoing 45th Kaduna International Trade Fair.

Maida, represented by NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, said as a matter of critical national security, telecom consumers must link their SIMs to their NINs.

Disregard to court injunction?

NCC’s move is despite an injunction by the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday banning telecom operators from deactivating or terminating any phone line or SIM card not linked to the user’s National NIN.

Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa issued the injunction following an application by a Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, seeking to prohibit the respondents–the  Federal Government, the Attorney-General of the Federation, MTN, NCC and Airtel from deactivating, barring or restricting SIM cards or phone lines on February 28, 2024, or any other scheduled date, pending a decision by the Appeal Court. The NCC and the telecom operators have yet to appeal the court decision.

Read Also: NIMC, NCC eye collaboration with security agencies to track kidnappers

The federal government had, on December 16, 2020, introduced the SIM-NIN synchronization with the assurance that it would enable security agencies to track criminals.

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

Nigerians have raised posers on why the security agencies have not utilized the SIM-NIN linkage to track criminals, especially bandits and kidnappers, who often reach out, via mobile phone lines, to victims’ families who paid huge amounts of money as ransom.

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

Read Also: Court bars Nigeria’s telecom operators from deactivating subscribers’ lines over NIN

The NCC had, last year, given February 28, 2024, as the new deadline for the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) to block subscribers without their NINs and those whose NINs had not been verified.

Subscribers want more time

The president of National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria, Deolu Ogunbanjo, said the telecom operators should give subscribers more time to comply with the NCC’s directive.

Ogunbanjo, however, urged Nigerians to go and link their SIM cards to their NINs to avoid being barred.

 

 

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