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NIN: SIM blockage is an infringement on human rights – SERAP tells Buhari

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BLOCKING telecommunications subscribers who have not linked their subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards to the National Identification Number (NIN) from making phone calls infringes on human rights, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Following a directive by the Federal Government, telecommunications companies have barred subscribers whose SIM cards are not linked to the NIN from making calls.

SERAP condemned the directive in an open letter to the President, dated April 9, 2022, and signed by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare.


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“Blocking people from making calls undermines their ability to communicate freely and associate with others. It infringes their rights to freedom of expression and family life, as well as socio-economic rights,” SERAP said.

The organisation said the decision to block people from making calls was inconsistent and incompatible with the country’s international legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and facilitate economic and social rights.

“Access to telecommunications services is a condition sine qua non for the effective exercise of human rights. Therefore, the decision to block people from making calls is discriminatory and a travesty,” the letter added.

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SERAP further said blocking the SIM cards from making calls would cause a wide variety of harms to economic activity, personal safety and disproportionately affect those on the margins of society.

It added that the development would directly hinder the ability of the government to achieve Goal 8 of the 2030 Agenda on the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

“Millions of Nigerians, including persons with disabilities, elderly citizens, persons living in remote areas, have been unable to capture their biometrics and obtain their National Identity Numbers (NINs) due to logistical challenges, administrative and bureaucratic burdens, as well as the persistent collapse of the national grid,” SERAP noted.

The ICIR reported that hundreds of Nigerians trooped out to sim registration centres across the country following the blockage of their sim cards.

The development meant that many people could not make calls, send text messages or use the internet with their mobile telephone lines.

However, network glitches, equipment failure and other factors are hindering the NIN enrolment process.

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SERAP noted that although it supports efforts by the government to tackle insecurity in the country, it must be done in conformity with human rights.

SERAP urged the Federal Government to reverse the SIM blockage, warning that a legal action will be taken if the policy was not set aside.

The letter added, “We would be grateful if the decision to block people from making calls on their SIMs is reversed within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest to ensure full compliance with human rights standards.

“The rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of association, whether offline or online, promote the democratic ideal by allowing citizens to voice their concerns, challenge governmental institutions, and hold government accountable for its actions.”

Author profile

Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via labolade@icirnigeria.org, on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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