• Monday, July 22, 2024
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Nigerians lament over repetitive SIM registration exercise


As telecommunications operators in Nigeria deal with the surge arising from the ongoing subscriber identity module (SIM) revalidation exercise, Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction over the repetitive process of registration.

A BusinessDay visit to the service centres at Ikeja City Mall, shows the dissatisfaction of subscribers who had come to revalidate their mobile lines following the instructive text messages sent to them by their various service providers.

After the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) fined MTN Nigeria for failing to disconnect improperly registered subscribers, all mobile operators in Nigeria are strictly adhering to directives from the regulator in order to avoid being sanctioned.

It has been reported that over N46 billion has been spent between 2010 and 2015 to make the registration exercise successful. However, telecoms operators are still having problems as many of their customers have been disconnected due to improper registration of SIMs. This means that more money would be spent since many subscribers have been asked to go and revalidate the information of their SIMs for the umpteenth time.

Analysts say these problems stem from the NCC, initially contracting agents to conduct the process of SIM registration and data collection instead of allowing the service providers to solely collect necessary data. Hence, the efforts to harmonise collected data from the NCC and that of the telcos proved abortive.

The four major telcos – MTN, Airtel, Etisalat and Globacom – have begun rigorous SIM revalidation exercises in service outlets around the country, resulting in large crowds in various customer experience centres across Lagos and other major cities.

In a bid to lure subscribers to come for the biometric revalidation exercise, operators are giving customers free airtime, usable only when the full biometric registration is confirmed by the network. Airtel Nigeria is giving up to N5,000 worth of airtime to use within the network to customers who have completed their revalidation, and MTN is said to be giving free airtime of up to N10,000.

Ayo Sokeye, an MTN subscriber who visited the service centre, recounted his bitter experience at the store, saying, “Apart from the influx of people at the MTN store, it was even more annoying to see that some customers were locked out of the shop because there was no way they could control the crowd. So, I just had to forget about doing my revalidation, even though I really wanted the free airtime.”

The management of MTN Nigeria, some months back, issued a public apology to its customers through paid TV/radio adverts and circulars, over the noticeable congestion in its service outlets across the country as a result of the SIM registration process.

A statement signed by Akinwale Goodluck, the then corporate services executive of MTN, stated that the company was doing everything possible to ameliorate the conditions at the service centres.

However, the congestion has re-appeared months after, with the revalidation exercise and most mobile subscribers, including MTN customers who had previously be subjected to this drawn out process have been requested to visit the telco service stores yet again for re-validation.

When asked why the SIM registration process is becoming such a messy issue, Funso Aina, MTN’s public relations and protocol manager, told BusinessDay that: “It is important to note that the perceived irregularities which necessitated the ongoing revalidation exercise was due to a number of reasons, many of which are outside the control of operators.

“These include the general apathy of some subscribers to giving personal information, giving wrong and incomplete information and data reconciliation issues during previous SIM registration exercises.

“Beyond that, it is important to note that attempts at data capture of such magnitude was the first of its kind in Nigeria, and probably the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. So, it was bound to be fraught with some challenges more so as we had no database to validate against.

“As we have repeatedly assured our customers, MTN regrets the inconveniences being experienced as a result of the ongoing exercise. We are doing everything humanly possible to make the process seamless, timely and efficient.”

Another disappointed customer, by the name Chuka, said his line had been barred despite his network provider stating that there was no deadline for revalidation.

“I am tired of this back and forth with Nigerian mobile networks and their SIM registration processes. I was sent a text message to visit my operator’s service centre with a proof of identification for revalidation and be rewarded with free airtime. There was no deadline date given and yet my line was barred yesterday. I have not been able to make or receive calls, even though I have registered my line more than once,” he said.

Jumoke Akiyode