• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Millions of subscribers barred as SIM-NIN linkage deadline ends

What to know about NIN-SIM deadline

Some 11.2 million Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) may have been barred following the expiration of the February 28 deadline to link them with National Identity Numbers (NINs).

A source close to the matter confirmed this to BusinessDay, adding that the telecom operators were only complying with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directive.

In a telephone chat on Thursday, Reuben Mouka, NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, told BusinessDay that the Commission’s February 28, 2024, deadline was sacrosanct and urged affected subscribers to contact their telecom operator to link their SIMs to NINs for connectivity.

“There is not going to be an extension of the deadline this time, as we have done this on many occasions, yet many phone lines are yet to be linked,” Mouka said.

Speaking on an injunction by the Federal High Court in Lagos, which stopped telecom operators from blocking any phone line or SIM card not linked to the user’s NIN, Mouka noted that the commission has yet to receive any letter to that effect.

In a recent ruling, Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa issued an 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, 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.

On December 16, 2020, the Federal Government mandated the SIM-NIN linkage. This SIM-NIN policy is meant to address insecurity in the country by helping the authorities track down bandits and terrorists.

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

According to data on NCC’s website, there are 224.7 million active mobile telephone lines in the country. According to NIMC, 104 million NINs have so far been issued.

Last year, the NCC gave February 28, 2024, as the new deadline for the telecom operators to block subscribers without their NINs.

According to NCC, “As a matter of critical national security, telecom consumers must link their SIMs to their NIN.”

Meanwhile, some subscribers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have expressed displeasure over the barring of their SIMs.

The subscribers who spoke in separate interviews expressed their displeasure over what they described as unfair.

During a visit to some telco’s customer service centres, subscribers complained about their lines being barred before the Feb. 28 deadline. Some narrated that they had already linked their NINs to their SIMs as directed by the NCC and were surprised that their lines were still barred.

Amina Abdullahi, a civil servant, said a message was sent to his mobile line at the weekend, which he did not take seriously because he had done his NIN-SIM linkage.

Abdullahi said two days after the message was sent, he noticed that his SIM had been disconnected, and he could no longer recharge or make calls with his phone.

“The disconnection is uncalled for because I have done what is needed and should have been given time to make enquiries.”

John Owolabi, another subscriber, said the telco disconnected him without any notice. Owolabi stated that it was when he got to one of the telco outlets that the agents explained to him that he needed to do a NIN-SIM linkage.

Corroborating Owolabi, Veronica Maduabunechukwu, a trader, said a disconnection notice was sent to her by her network provider despite having done her NIN- SIM linkage.

She stated, “The line has not been disconnected, and I see no reason it should be barred.”

Another subscriber, Goodness Emeka, said he had done her NIN-SIM linkage since 2020.

Kanyinsola Oje, another subscriber, noted that a notice to link her SIM to NIN to avoid disconnection was also sent to her. She said that some days after the notice, her line got barred.