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NIN/SIM: ALTON engages with FG over blocked sims

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THE Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has continued to engage the Federal Government over the mass blockage of subscriber lines.

The ALTON Chairperson, Gbenga Adebayo, represented by the body’s committee chairman on Seminars/Events and Head, Regulatory Services, Mrs Adejumoke Ajala, said this today in an interview with The ICIR.

The ICIR had on April 4, 2022, reported that the government had directed mobile telecommunication operators comprising mostly MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile to immediately bar outgoing calls from subscriber identification module (SIM) cards not yet linked with the National Identification Number (NIN).

The government, through the Ministry of Communications and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) had in December 2020 directed SIM subscribers to link their national identity numbers to their SIM cards, with a warning that subscribers who failed to do so by January 19, 2021 would have their SIMs blocked.

This was stalled by appeals from ALTON and civil societies for deadline extension, which was acceded to multiple times till March 31, 2022. The final sledgehammer came on April 4.

Ajala, speaking on the sidelines of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) 2022 at Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, said that the blockage of subscribers lines had been a major challenge for ALTON as several sectors have been affected by the blockage of information flow, even as far as the rural areas.

She said, “It has been a major challenge. We have had daily meetings with the NCC and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to address these issues. We want citizens to register as soon as possible and have their NINs, and then submit their names as soon as possible. With the collaborations we are having, we hope to issue as fast as possible the NINs to the citizens and unbar their lines.”

NIMC Lagos Alausa
Long queues at the NIMC Lagos office in Alausa. Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa_The_ICIR
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She explained that ALTON had been at the forefront of the issue but there was a limit to which it can engage the government.

Ajala said letters had been sent out to the NCC, government, and the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.

She added that there was optimism about a swift solution.

“We are believing that they would look at our letters and give heed to them. We have started seeing some of the appeals we have made and they are giving approvals to those things. As soon as possible, I am sure things like this will thin out.

“Right now, it is really tough, knowing that the hammer hit a few weeks ago. We are believing that as soon as NIMC understands its process and they are able to give us access to do a lot of bulk verifications, we would be able to see that things like that work a bit seamlessly,” she said.

About 119 million lines might have been deactivated. Available statistics from the NCC in February showed there were 303,636,267 connected GSM mobile lines in the country, out of which 197,768,482 were active. Of the 197.7 million active subscribers, 78 million had, so far, been linked.

An ICIR report on April 8, 2022, noted that over 400 subscribers flocked the office of the NIMC at Ikeja, Lagos, in their effort to obtain their national identity numbers (NIN) they would link to their SIMs as directed by the Federal Government.

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