Group Moves to Stop NCC from Disconnecting Telecoms Subscribers


Emma Okonji
Following the recent directive to all telecoms operators by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to disconnect all SIM cards that are not linked to the National Identification Number (NIN) by December 30, 2020, Paradigm Initiative has gone to court to restrain the NCC from implementing the directive.

The directive came from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami.
The minister had last week convened a stakeholders’ meeting, where decisions were taken that telecoms operators would require all their subscribers to provide valid NIN to update their SIM registration record.

Subscribers were therefore mandated to submit their NIN to their service providers within two weeks, from December 16-30, 2020 and that after the deadline, all SIMs that are not linked to NIN will be blocked.

Owing to this, PIN went to court, seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the government and the service providers from carrying out the draconian order as it believes it was a violation of fundamental rights to freedom of expression of Nigerian Citizens as guaranteed by Section 39 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution, as amended.

Senior Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, Adeboye Adegoke, said the proposed blocking of SIM cards not linked with the National Identity Number, was unlawful and unconstitutional.
According to Adegoke, “Many young people and others, using their mobile phones for expression or to do business online will be affected by the poorly thought-out policy. No reasonable Nigerian will support such a policy that is geared to make life unbearable for Nigerian citizens.”

He quoted the Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz who said in June 2020 that only 38 per cent of Nigerians have any form of identification, which indicates that over 100 million Nigerians have no identity (ID).

Adegoke said the directive had created panic in the polity since it was announced.
According to him, “Nigeria at the moment is experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic according to the daily numbers from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the past one week.

“This is a time when we need to discourage public gatherings, crowding, and the likes, but it appears that the government is not sensitive enough to see those nuances and has asked that 100 million Nigerians should go and register for the National Identification Number within two weeks, so we are left with no choice but to seek the intervention of the court.”

Communications Officer at Paradigm Initiative, Valery Nijaba, said:
“Requiring over 100 million Nigerian citizens to register for NIN in two weeks is not only unrealistic but a fire brigade approach to governance that will not bring any value to the people.

“Whatever the government is trying to achieve by the strange directive is ignoble.
“When the same government tried to compel students writing UTME examinations to register for the NIN as a pre-requisite to sitting for the examinations last year, many students couldn’t register, with documented cases of government officials and law enforcement officials weaponising the desperation of the students to register for NIN to extort them and their parents.
“The government was forced to walk back on the policy at that instance. These are the type of effects the fire-brigade approach to policymaking leads to.”