About 12.3 million active SIM cards are yet to be linked with their owners’ National Identity Numbers (NINs), Daily Trust reports.
This is as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) confirmed on Tuesday that a total of 47.8m phone users had supplied their NINs to telecom operators.
It was learnt that the over 12 million SIM cards were pending because most of the users do not have the national identity numbers.
There is an average of three to four SIMs per telecom subscriber in the country, according to the NCC.
This means about 191.2m active SIM cards have so far been linked to their owners’ unique identity numbers.
Nigeria’s teledensity rose by 2.2 per cent from 104.4 per cent to 106.6 per cent in October, increasing the number of telecom subscribers to 203.5 million, according to NCC data.
The federal government had given January 19 and February 9 deadlines for subscribers already with NINs and those without NINs, respectively, to link their SIMs with their unique identity numbers.
Deadline draws near
As the deadline draws nearer, the fate of 12.3m active SIMs owners hangs in the balance as they struggle to get their unique identity numbers from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
The NCC in a statement by its Director of Public Affairs, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, said on Tuesday that millions of SIMs will be linked with NINs before the deadline in February.
Adinde disclosed that the Technical Implementation Committee under the Ministerial Task Force on SIMs-NIN linkage had also reported significant progress in the ongoing NIN-SIM linkage exercise.
“At the end of a review meeting on 18th January 2021, the Technical Implementation Committee under the Ministerial Task Force has reported significant progress in the ongoing NIN-SIM linkage exercise’’, he said.
He said the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, had expressed satisfaction with the achievement recorded in the ongoing exercise so far.
He expressed the federal government’s appreciation for the commitment demonstrated by all stakeholders and citizens and urged them to submit their NINs before the 9th February 2021 deadline.
“The minister urged the technical team to fast-track the processes so that the project is delivered soonest’’, Adinde said.
He also drew attention to an app, which allows subscribers to link up to a maximum of seven SIMs to their NINs.
Adinde quoted Pantami as reminding Nigerians to secure and protect their NINs, urging them to desist from selling the numbers or allowing others to use them for registration.
“For any act committed with the SIM good or bad, it will be officially traced and attached to the NIN owner,” the statement warned.
Service providers tasked
Daily Trust recalled that MTN, GLO, Airtel, 9Mobile and other smaller telecom companies in the country were handed a stern order in December to compulsorily demand for the NINs of their customers.
However, NCC had said there would be no mass disconnection of telecom subscribers as a result of the ongoing linkage of NIN records to SIM registration.
NCC said many Nigerians had already linked their NIN to their SIM and there shouldn’t be any fear of mass disconnection.
“A recent survey conducted in Nigeria has shown that on average, there are now approximately 4 to 5 SIMs to every human subscriber. This explains the basis of allowing the linkage of up to 7 SIMs to 1 unique NIN in the recently launched federal government Portal,” NCC said in a recent statement.
Justification for exercise
The federal government said the current exercise of linking NIN to SIM(s) is for the common good of all Nigerians, as it has far-reaching benefits.
“Apart from enhancing our general safety, this will help in such vital exercises like national budgeting, policy planning, social intervention programmes and many more,’’ the government said.
A telecom expert, Ugo Ekanem, urged the NCC to work more on improving quality of networks so that Nigerians would be carrying less SIM cards.
Another telecom expert, Umar Hafiz, wondered why Nigerians should have more than two SIM cards, saying the government must find a way of trimming the number an individual could have.
“People will tell you that they have multiple lines because the telecom service providers are not reliable; I stand to disagree because if you will carry out a verification exercise, you will discover that some people have multiple SIM cards from one service provider.
“Besides, if the essence of linking SIM cards with NIN is to also reduce insecurity, the idea is already defeated because people with ulterior motives are already using the NIN of some gullible Nigerians to register many SIM cards,” he said.
Asked if there was a way forward, he said, “It is very simple.
“The government should limit SIM card possession to two and then give a timeline to the telecoms to expand their frontiers so that people would have options wherever they are.”
In a recent statement, the Director General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, said the commission would intensify efforts to register and give more Nigerians their NINs.
He reiterated that the federal government had licensed 173 centres and 30 state government institutions to conduct the enrolment of NIN across Nigeria.
“The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim [Pantami], has approved the licensing of 173 agents and 30 State Governments/Public Sector Institutions to conduct enrolment of all persons including legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB) on behalf of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC),” he said.