The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has announced Sunday, that telecoms consumers, whose Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards have been barred from making calls owing to the National Identification Numbers (NIN-SIM) linkage will not be enjoying a new lease of life yet.
According to a statement by the telecoms regulator, unlinked SIM cards remain barred by the service providers until they are linked with the NINs of the holders.
NCC said that the clarification has become necessary in view of a viral petition link intended to compel the commission to rescind its decision.
According to the statement signed by its Director of Public Affairs, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, the NIN-SIM link and its accompanying narrative aims at misinforming the general public.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the NCC wishes to state categorically that it never issued such statement, directing subscribers or indicating that subscribers can unbar their SIM without a NIN. As such, the originators and peddlers of the spurious message were out to mischievously mislead unsuspecting members of the public. Therefore, their message should be disregarded.”
The aftermath of the ban: cases and petitions
Last week, the government indicated that over 125 million SIM card holders have had their NINs submitted for immediate linkage, verification and authentication. Also, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) announced it has issued over 78 Million unique NINs.
That means that about 73 million SIMs will be affected by this order since Nigeria has a total of 198,123,431 subscribers as of February 2022.
Reacting to this, the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP threatened to sue the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for blocking 72 million telecommunication subscribers in the country.
But the NCC has said that, as the commission is the national regulatory authority for telecommunications in Nigeria, it is co-driving the process of the NIN-SIM linkage with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) as directed by the Federal Government. Hence, it will not, “under any circumstance, act contrary to Federal Government’s directive to MNOs to bar SIMs cards not linked to NINs at the expiration of the last deadline given for the NIN-SIM linkage exercise.”
The only way out
In its statement, the NCC insisted that, for the avoidance of doubt, the only available option for the affected SIM card holders is to register for NIN or link their sims to existing NINs. According to its statement:
“First, for subscribers that have not registered for their NIN, what to do is to get their SIM registered at accredited centres across the country and then link the NIN with their SIM cards through channels provided by their service providers. Secondly, for subscribers with registered NINs, what to do is simply go and link the NIN with their SIMs through channels provided by their service providers.”
This is coming one week after the Federal Government ordered telecommunications service providers to bar outgoing calls of unlinked SIM lines (existing and new) following the expiration of the deadline NIN-SIM linking and data verification exercise.
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