Telecoms subscribers under the aegis of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) have called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, to compel the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami to further extend the date for the submission of NIN beyond the February 9 new date.
Pantami had directed the NCC to ensure that telecoms operators enforce the implementation of NIN-SIM integration, and had given deadlines for the completion of the exercise. The minister had earlier given January 19, 2021, as deadline for the submission of NIN for those who have already registered and obtained their NINs and February 9, 2021 for those who are yet to register and obtain their NINs.
However, the National Chairman of NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, argued that the three weeks extension was insufficient, while suggesting a minimum of six months extension at the first instance, then a review before another extension, if necessary.
According to him, the six months extension would be necessary, to allow all Nigerians submit their NINs and get them linked with their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card, without undue pressure.
Quoting the figure released by NCC on the number of NINs submitted to telecoms operators, which was put at 47.8 million as at the expiration of the January 19 deadline, out of the 204 million active subscriber lines in the country, Ogunbanjo said millions of Nigerians were yet to submit their NINs and that millions of subscribers were also yet to register and obtain their NINs, a situation, he said, called for ample time of extension.
He suggested a six-month period of extension, which would expire in June this year and a review of the process before another three-month period of extension.
Ogunbanjo, cited the case with SIM card registration and BVN registration, which he said, had extension periods.
He also said the extension period would help Nigerians decongest the crowd at the registration centres of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) by observing proper social distancing in order to stay safe during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, which is already killing people in Nigeria and the entire world.
According to Ogunbanjo, “Nigerian subscribers are well over 204 million and some of them have more than three SIMS, and only 47.8 million subscribers have submitted their NINS, which is a clear evidence that several millions are yet to submit, while several millions are yet to even enrol to obtain their NINs.
“So we need more time for the NIN/SIM integration, more so that people are mindful of the crowd in public places due to the second wave of COVID-19.
“During the SIM registration exercise, enough time was given and there was extension after the expiration of the initial date. The same goes to Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise that was carried out by the banks, where extension was also given.
“We are not disputing the importance of NIN/SIM integration, and the need to have a single database for Nigeria, which NIMC is trying to achieve through NIN registration, but there is need to thread with caution in the implementation process in order not to jeopardise the health of Nigerians,” Ogunbanjo insisted.
The federal government, last week, extended the date for the submission of NIN for those who already have NIN by three weeks, from January 19, 2021 to February 9, 2021.
With this development, both those who have not registered and obtained their NIN and those that have NIN, will have the same deadline of February 9, 2021, to submit their NIN and link the NIN to their SIM cards.
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), which announced the extension in a statement jointly signed by its Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo and its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Damian Udeh, stated: “The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) confirmed to our members that we have received formal confirmation from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously approved the extension of the deadline for subscribers with NIN to link it to their SIM registration data from 19th January to 9th February 2021.
“To ensure that we utilise the extension period judiciously, we urge all telecom subscribers who have a NIN to link it to their SIM Cards through available channels as soon as possible.”