Subscribers tackle FG over deadline on linking SIM with NIN
• NATCOMS demands extension of the deadline to six months
• ALTON appeals to telephone users, promises seamless exercise
Telecommunications subscribers have tackled the Federal Government over the two-week deadline handed Nigerians to link their Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) cards with their National Identity Number (NIN).
The Guardian can confirm that as of October, there were 285 million connected lines out of which 207 million were active. As of three years ago, a study by the Global System for Mobile telecommunication Association (GSMA) suggested that there were about 66 million unique subscribers in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, about 45 million Nigerians are captured on NIN. This implies that at least 20 million Nigerians may have their SIMS blocked on January 1, 2021, if the deadline is not extended.
Subscribers, who took to the social media to pour out their frustrations on the directive by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), wondered how the large population yet to be listed on NIM would be captured in two weeks.
@FunkeOnafuye said Nigeria had over 169 million mobile connections as of January 2020, an increase of 12 million between 2019 and 2020 while the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has registered less than 45 million Nigerians.
Another user, Bolaji Olawale (@wascolee), tweeted: “You want to shut down the country in two weeks. This is a silly joke!”
While tagging the NCC@NgComCommission and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami (@DrIsaPantami), Olawale reminded the authorities that there are people in the rural community, who do not have access to the NIMC registration centre, asking whether they intend to “disable their lines in two weeks.”
On his part, Omoyele Sowore (@YeleSowore), said the real reason the government wants to shut down all mobile phones that currently do not have NIN has nothing to do with terrorism but profiteering. “They just awarded contracts to their friends to do the job of @nimc_ng and get kickbacks,” the tweeter noted.
Speaking via Zoom yesterday to announce the commencement of the Airtel Season of Love programme, the Chief Executive Officer of Airtel, Segun Ogunsanya, said the telecom operator will comply with the directive, while it awaits further information from the NCC.
Also, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said its members would fully comply with the two directives issued by the NCC in the past week and work closely with the Commission to overcome the current challenge.
In a statement signed by both the Chairman and Publicity Secretary of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo and Damian Udeh respectively, the group claimed to understand that the process would be inconvenient for subscribers.
It noted: “We are committed to ensuring we provide the information and support that you will need to manage this transition. Our focus is on minimising the disruption that it will cause and as the delivery mechanisms are developed, we will provide further information.
“We continue to seek your cooperation and understanding and we work with the government in ensuring a reliable national identity ecosystem.”
But the President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Deolu Ogunbanjo, said two weeks are too short for the task.
“You cannot just fix two weeks for that to be done. There are only 44 million people that are registered with the NIMC, which is less than 25 per cent of the population. Linking all the 200 million lines to NIN within two weeks is not realistic.
“How do we intend to manage the surge in the crowd? Too many people will start besieging the telecom experience centres. How will the operators be able to manage that? I think the country should prevent the spread of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic at all costs.”