House Urges Extension of SIM Card Registration, NIN Linkage Deadline


•FG licenses over 200 agents, institutions to support NIN registration
•Subscribers kick against two-week ultimatum for Synchronisation

Emma Okonji, Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos, Sylvester Idowu in Warri and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The House of Representatives yesterday urged the federal government to extend the deadline for the synchronisation of subscribers’ SIM card registration with their National Identification Number (NIN) by telecommunication service providers to 10 weeks.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had on Tuesday, issued a directive that makes it compulsory for all SIM cards to be linked to National Identity Number (NIN), giving a two-week deadline for compliance.

But the House at the plenary said that NCC should give a reasonable amount of time to enable Nigerians to comply with the instruction.

It also mandated the House Committee on Communications to ensure compliance.
The resolutions followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance, moved by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu.

Elumelu, moving the motion noted that as laudable as the idea behind the policy may seem, the timing is very wrong because Nigerians have not been properly sensitized.

He said if the NCC is not urgently called to halt their plans there may be unnecessary panic in the country, which may lead to the exploitation of vulnerable Nigerian thereby causing more pains in an already pathetic situation.

According to him, ”The timing is very wrong because Nigerians have not been properly sensitized as only a few educated persons who bother to read the dailies might have heard about this instructions, therefore, trying to enforce this policy in a period where most Nigerians are gearing up for Christmas festivities may lead to stampede in the process of rushing to get registered, which could lead to unnecessary death and injuries.”

He said if the NCC is allowed to carry out this directive, it will bring about untold hardship as millions of subscribers will be disconnected during the yuletide period, which he said could spell disaster in an already volatile situation.

Adopting the motion, the House resolved that the exercise should end on February 28, 2021, as against December 30, 2020.

FG Licenses over 200 Agents, Institutions to Support NIN Registration

Meanwhile, the federal government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, has approved the licensing of 173 agents and 30 state governments/public sector institutions to conduct enrollment of all persons, including legal residents into the national identity database of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) on behalf of NIMC.

The approval, which was given in different categories, includes all telecoms operators and private companies, and they are expected to commence enrollment into the NIMC database.

The licensing of the agents is not unconnected with the two-week ultimatum given to telecoms subscribers to link all registered SIM card to their National Identity Number (NIN) issued by NIMC.
Head of Communications at NIMC, Mr. Kayode Adegoke, who confirmed the licensing of the agents, said they have been mandated to commence registration immediately.

However, telecoms subscribers have kicked against the ultimatum.

The Executive Secretary, Information Technology Systems and Security, an interest group of the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS), Mr. Rogba Adeoye, told THISDAY that the initiative was laudable but that the two weeks period would not be enough to achieve the result.

“Nigeria lacks adequate infrastructure to accomplish the task, coupled with the yuletide season and the COVID-19 pandemic that is still with us in the country, which calls for caution to avoid unnecessary stamped,”

Adeoye, therefore, advised that there should be an extension of time and that the Computer-Based Centres (CBC) that were used during JAMB examinations should be deployed to facilitate enrollment and SIM card registration and synchronization.

An expert on technology and Managing Director of DAS Energy Services Limited, Warri, Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said that the two weeks ultimatum is not realistic.

Onuesoke, who made the observation in Asaba, Delta State noted that such an exercise, which involves no fewer than 100 million telephone users across Nigeria and in the Diaspora is not something NCC should do overnight.

Reacting to the directive, Onuesoke who stated that the policy is dead on arrival and a violation of individual privacy wondered how millions of subscribers could update their records in two weeks, arguing that, even in the developed world, it is not realistic except the synchronization is automated.

A professor of Political Economy and Founder of the Centre for Value Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi, told THISDAY that he did not consider the directive a serious matter to ponder on and warned Nigerians to be wary of the government’s intentions in order to protect their privacy and avoid the Orwellian trip to Oceania where the Big Brother is always watching on the citizens.
The Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf, told THISDAY that government should exercise the utmost care in order to avoid creating fresh disruptions in the economy with its latest policy on SIM management.

Yusuf also pointed out that it is impractical to accomplish this task in two weeks as stipulated in the government’s announcement.

Professor of Economics at Akwa Ibom State University, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, warned that the implementation of the policy without extending the deadline for between six months and one year would cause serious economic disruption as most Nigerians rely on their mobile phones to connect and transact businesses.

However, an economist and the Chief Executive Officer of the Economic Associates Limited, Dr. Ayo Teriba, urged Nigerians to cooperate with the government to ensure the successful implementation of the policy because of its security dimension.

Teriba told THISDAY that a lot could be achieved before the expiration of the deadline if telephone operators would allow their customers to reach them on their respective helpline with their NINs.
Meanwhile, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), yesterday said its members will comply with the directives of the NCC and the federal government.

According to a statement, which was signed by its Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, and its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Damian Udeh, “We wish to communicate our intention to fully comply with the two directives issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in the past week, and to work closely with them to overcome this challenge, together.

“We understand that this process will be inconvenient for subscribers and we are committed to ensuring we provide the information and the support that you will need to manage this transition.”