A few days after the expiration of the deadline for the National Identity Number to Subscriber Identity Module (NIN-SIM) linking and data verification, the Federal Government of Nigeria has ordered telecommunications service providers to bar outgoing calls of unlinked sims lines (existing and new) beginning from today, April 4th, 2022.
This was disclosed in a statement by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami today. According to him, the government has been gracious enough to extend the deadline for the NIN-SIM linkage exercise owing to “passionate appeals by several bodies” and the desire of the government “to allow Nigerians to freely comply with the Policy”. He said:
“At this point, however, Government has determined that the NIN-SIM Policy implementation can proceed, as machinery has already been put in place to ensure compliance by citizens and legal residents. The implementation impacts on Government’s strategic planning, particularly in the areas of security and socio-economic projections.”
The minister indicated that as of date, over 125 million SIM holders have had their NINs submitted for immediate linkage, verification and authentication. Similarly, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has issued over 78 Million unique NINs. As of February 2022, Nigeria has a total of 198,123,431 subscribers. That means that about 73 million SIMs will be affected by this order.
He emphasized that enrolment for the NIN is a continuous exercise and NIN is a precondition for service in Telcos, banks, Nigerian Immigration Service, and several other government services.
He adds that affected SIM holders are advised to register for their NINs at designated centres and thereafter link the NINs to their SIMs through the channels provided by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and through the telcos customer service centres as well as the NIMC mobile App.
This is coming after the Federal Government has approved the extension of the deadline for the National Identity Number to Subscriber Identity Module (NIN-SIM) linking and data verification by a few days on Friday.
This would be the eighth deadline extension since the NIN-SIM linkage exercise was announced back in December 2020. The last extension was announced 3 months after the last extension as the earlier stipulated deadline lapsed on March 31st.
More to come…
An anonymous source within the ministry has informed Technext that the barring of calls in this first step by the government in taking unlinked SIMs off the radar. According to him, the current call-barring order will be in effect for about six weeks. This will be followed by an SMS barring and a total deactivation.
He said: “This call blocking is only the first step. After about six weeks of that, the unlinked lines will be barred from receiving and sending text messages. An announcement about that will be made. Then, the lines will be totally deactivated. They won’t have access to the numbers completely.”
According to our source, the phased withdrawal of services has been designed to encourage compliance and prevent “an instance where telcos will lose a significant number of subscribers overnight”.
This is understandable in the light of the statement by the minister that “the FG also took into consideration the passionate appeals by several bodies – Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Civil Societies, Professional Bodies and a host of others – for the extension of the deadlines in the past.”
The recent decision to bar unlinked lines is understandable in the face of the pressure the security agencies have been under following weeks of unremitting terrorism attacks, kidnapping and banditry across states in the country.
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