Blocked Phone Lines Surge to 40 Million as SIM-NIN Linkage Deadline Passes

Blocked Phone Lines Surge to 40 Million as SIM-NIN Linkage Deadline Passes

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Over the weekend, telecommunication operators in Nigeria blocked no less than 40 million telephone lines as the deadline set by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for linking Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) to National Identity Numbers (NINs) expired on February 28, 2024.

This staggering figure represents a significant increase from the initial estimate of 12 million lines that were expected to be deactivated following the NCC directive.

In a notice issued in December 2023, the NCC had instructed telcos to deactivate SIMs that had not been linked to NINs by the end of February 2024. Despite calls for an extension, the NCC Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, had ruled out any deadline extension and warned of sanctions for non-compliance by telcos.

Initially, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had indicated that 12 million lines would be barred due to the directive. However, ALTON’s chairman later disclosed that the number had surged to 40 million, including SIMs without NINs.

In an interview with The PUNCH, ALTON’s chairman explained, “Over 40 million lines have been blocked, affecting customers who failed to submit their NINs. Some individuals have not registered their SIMs or participated in the harmonization program, hence not providing any NIN to operators.”

The SIM-NIN synchronization initiative was introduced by the Federal Government in December 2020 to aid security agencies in tracking criminals. However, concerns have been raised regarding the effectiveness of this measure in combating criminal activities, particularly among bandits and kidnappers who frequently utilize mobile telephone lines during ransom negotiations.

While the specifics of the deactivated lines per network were not provided, ALTON’s chairman hinted at further disconnections in the coming weeks for subscribers with unverified NINs or discrepancies in their registration details.

In response, the President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, expressed intentions to seek legal recourse if the deadline was not extended. Ogunbanjo urged the NCC to consider the plight of customers and grant a 31-day extension, emphasizing the need to balance security concerns with subscribers’ interests.

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