By Emma Okonji
Despite the extension window given by the federal government for the integration of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) with the National Identification Number (NIN), the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS) has said the extension period are still not sufficient.
National President of NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, who expressed the feelings of Nigerian subscribers, told THISDAY that NATCOMS would go to court to challenge the initial order given by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, which directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to enforce blocking of subscribers’ SIM cards who fail to complete the integration exercise within two weeks, which is expected to lapse by December 31, 2020.
He explained that since the initial two weeks period has been extended by additional three weeks and six weeks, NATCOM would wait till the expiration of the new deadline on January 19, 2021, and February 19, 2021, before challenging the order to block SIM cards, should the federal government carry out its threat order after the expiration of the new deadline.
Pantami had last week, issued a directive, asking NCC to compel telecoms operators to link all registered SIM cards of telecoms subscribers with their NIN. Pantami later gave another directive, which made it mandatory for telecoms operators to conclude the integration exercise within two weeks, beginning from December 16 to 30, 2020.
The Minister further ordered NCC to direct all telecoms operators to block the SIM cards of all telecoms subscribers who fail to make their NIN available to the telecoms operators for integration, after the initial two weeks period.
The directives, however, elicited reactions from the House of Representatives and Nigerians from all walks of life who protested the two weeks period, saying it will never be possible to achieve such exercise within two weeks, owing to the second wave of COVID-19, and coupled with the fact that Nigerians are in the yuletide season where many travel outside their stations to celebrate the season.
Ogunbanjo, advised the federal government to give ample opportunity for the integration exercise, which he said, should not be less than six months.
He reiterated that NATCOMS would not hesitate to drag the minister, the NCC and the telecoms operators to court, should there be any attempts to block SIM cards after the new deadlines of January 19 and February 19.
Should NATCOMS go to court after January 19 and February 19, 2021, it would bring to two, the number of organised groups that have challenged the government over the timing of SIM-NIN integration.
Paradigm Initiative, led by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Gbenga Sesan, has last week dragged the minister, the NCC and telecoms operators to a Lagos High Court, challenging the order to block SIM cards after the initial two weeks period given for the integration exercise.
The federal government, on Monday, extended the initial deadline fixed for the integration of SIM Cards with National Identity Number (NIN), from December 30 to February 19 for all subscribers without NIN and from December 30 to January 19 for all subscribers that have already obtained their NIN.
Government also suspended all USSD and verification charges for the duration of the extension.
According to a recent statement released by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the agency handling registration and issuance of NIN, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, approved the extension of the deadline on the ongoing NIN- SIM integration, after a review of the exercise by the Presidential Task Force on the integration of the National Identification Number (NIN) and Subscriber Identification Module (SIM), chaired by the Minister.