As expected, telecommunications operators have started messaging subscribers found to have SIM irregularities, especially those who have been properly linked with their National Identification Numbers (NINs).
This is even as crowds are returning to various National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) offices and outlets across the country.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had ordered telecommunications operators in the country to completely block unlinked SIM to NIN by February 28. The operators, including MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile have been lettered to carry out the exercise as directed.
As of August 2023, checks from NCC showed that the telecoms operators had 220 million subscriptions, of which MTN has 85 million; Glo, 61 million; Airtel, 60 million and 9mobile, 13 million.
The mandatory NIN-SIM Linkage scheme began in December 2020 as directed by the federal government. The telecoms operators have already lost over 20 million subscriptions as some subscribers abandoned their lines. However, operators, with several promo packages, including free airtime incentives, recovered some lines as more Nigerians registered for NIN.
However, findings showed that between 10 million and 12 million are yet to be recovered.
Indeed, a message sent by Globacom to some of the affected subscribers on its network, reads:
“Dear customer, your line will be disconnected! Your Glo line is not linked with your NIN as directed by NCC. To avoid immediate disconnection, visit the nearest Glo SIM outlet to re-register your line. Link your NIN today.”
A subscriber, Tara Obinna (not real name), told The Guardian that she got the message three times but “unfortunately, I have relocated abroad but still maintained the number. I remember that I registered the line and linked it with NIN before I travelled. Early in 2022 was the second time I linked the line to NIN. They sent an SMS that I had successfully linked my SIM to NIN.
“They messaged again, about two weeks ago, that it was not linked. I was shocked to get such a message, knowing full well that the process has always been cumbersome.”
A telecoms officer with Glo claimed that after the line was checked, it was discovered that the biometrics were not captured properly, “meaning that she needs to re-do the biometrics.”
In the new year, other telecoms operators, including MTN, Airtel and 9mobile are expected to inundate affected subscribers on their respective networks with the need to visit service centres for re-linking of their SIMs to NIN.
Indeed, The Guardian gathered that a SIM could be barred on the following basis, computing errors during linking; integration errors from NIMC; incomplete registration; wrongful blockage; and biometrics gaps, among others.
Indeed, crowds were observed in the last week of December 2023 at NIMC offices, Alausa, Ikeja and Ikorodu, seeking to fix one thing or the order as regards their NIN. For some, it is to correct date of birth errors, some NIN validation and other registration.
The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, has called on subscribers not to wait till February 28 before linking their SIMs to NIN.
Adebayo, who spoke with The Guardian, said telecoms operators would comply with the NCC directive.
He said despite the limited-service restriction, millions of subscribers have yet to submit their NINs for verification.
“The importance of the NIN cannot be overemphasized. It is crucial for a reliable and sustainable National Identity Management System in Nigeria. It enables economic inclusion and access to government services and helps address security concerns. Supporting the NIN initiative is necessary for a thriving digital economy and building a safer society. Therefore, our members are committed to implementing the directive as law-abiding corporate citizens who are highly supportive of the government’s objective to build a digital economy,” Adebayo stated.