The Federal Government of Nigeria has given telecommunication operators in the country two weeks to block all lines not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN).
The directive was made public through the Twitter handle of the Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media, Bashir Ahmad Tuesday (December 15, 2020) evening.
The tweet by Bashir Ahmad states: “The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has given telecommunications operators (MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9Mobile and others) in the country two weeks to block all SIM cards that are not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN), the Commission has said in a statement.”
Apparently, this was the resolution reached at a meeting between the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy and stakeholders in the communication industry on Monday (December 14, 2020) and disclosed by the spokesperson of the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) in a statement on Tuesday (December 15, 2020).
The statement reads in part: “Operators to require ALL their subscribers to provide valid National Identification Number (NIN) to update SIM registration records.
“The submission of NIN by subscribers to take place within two weeks (from today December 16, 2020 and end by 30 December, 2020).
“After the deadline, ALL SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks.
“A Ministerial Task Force comprising the Minister and all the CEOs (among others) as members is to monitor compliance by all networks. Violations of this directive will be met by stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating license.
“The general public is hereby urged to ensure that their NINs are captured in their SIM registration data. All inconveniences which might be occasioned by this directive are deeply regretted.”
As expected, the directive has been drawing negative reactions from Nigerians on Twitter as many wondered the rationale behind such a directive.
Social media influencer and convener of the Lagos Digital Summit, Wale Adetona in his reaction to the tweet said: “Bashir, let’s be realistic. Do you know that as of January 2020, total active telephone subscribers in Nigeria stood at 185.9 million? How on earth are they supposed to get NIN within 2 weeks? Or is it that the NCC is not working with this data before coming to such conclusion?”
Another Twitter user with the handle @is_salsu said: “During a pandemic?
Just 2 weeks?
“Bashir I don’t agree with this. It isn’t the right time for this and the notice is short.
“I hope it would be possible for those of us with NIN to email our network providers rather than going to their office.”
It will be recalled that the last time the Federal Government came up with such a directive, the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) instructed that all prospective candidates for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) must register with their NIN. This, the management of JAMB said was to check examination malpractice.
JAMB however had to suspend the directive as it became apparent that it would be impossible to get all prospective candidates for the UTME to get their NIN.
That was for the 1.9 million candidates that registered for the 2020 UTME. Imagine how it will be for the significantly higher number of people who will need to beat the two weeks deadline given by the federal government. As at September 2020, only about 42 million Nigerians had their NIN. According to statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), there were 198,961,361 active GSM lines in the country as at July 2020.
What is to be seen is how Nigerians will beat the deadline considering how tedious the process of enrolling for the NIN is even without a ravaging pandemic at play.