16 Months after, FG Bars Unlinked SIM Cards, Begins Enforcement

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Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami

Emma Okonji

The federal government, yesterday, barred all outgoing calls from every SIM card not linked to the National Identification Number (NIN) of the telecom subscriber.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, who gave the order, also directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to direct all telecoms operators to begin the deactivation of all unlinked SIM cards with immediate effect, insisting that all telecoms subscribers must comply with the NIN-SIM linkage policy of the federal government.

In a statement yesterday, jointly signed by Director, Public Affairs, at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, and Head, Corporate Communications, at National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Mr. Kayode Adegoke, Pantami commended Nigerians and legal residents for their support during the exercise to link their NIN to their SIM cards.

The recent order to bar all unlinked SIM cards came 16 months after the federal government gave the first order to deactivate all SIM cards not registered and linked to NIN.

Pantami had in December 2020 directed the NCC to order telecoms operators to deactivate any SIM card not duly registered and linked to subscribers’ NIN, after the initial December 31, 2020 deadline, given for NIN-SIM linkage.

Based on the inability of subscribers to meet up with the December 31, 2020 deadline, the federal government had to postpone the deadline and had since postponed it 10 times to date.

At the last postponement, which was on December 31, 2021, Pantami conveyed the approval of the federal government to further extend the deadline for the NIN-SIM data verification and linkage from December 31, 2021 to March 31, 2022.

Although NIMC had said NIN registration would continue in all its centres, the federal government, yesterday said it would commence barring of all unlinked SIM cards with immediate effect, and told subscribers yet to register and link their SIM cards to do so before they could make outgoing calls.

The federal government, however, commended Nigerians for the compliance level in registering and linking the SIMs to NINs, saying 125 million SIMs have been submitted for linkage to NINs.

The statement said, “As of date, over 125 million SIMs have had their NINs submitted for immediate linkage, verification and authentication. Similarly, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has issued over 78 million unique NINs till date.

“President Muhammadu Buhari gave the directive for the implementation and commencement of the exercise in December 2020, as part of the administration’s security and social policies. The deadlines for the NIN-SIM linkage has been extended on multiple occasions to allow Nigerians to freely comply with the policy.

“The federal government also took into consideration the passionate appeals by several bodies- Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Civil Societies, Professional Bodies and a host of others – for the extension of the deadlines in the past.

“Accordingly, Mr. President graciously approved the many requests to extend deadlines for the NIN-SIM linkage. At this point however, government has determined that the NIN-SIM Policy implementation can proceed, as machinery has already been put in place to ensure compliance by citizens and legal residents.

“The implementation impacts on government’s strategic planning, particularly in the areas of security and socio-economic projections.”

The statement added, “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the implementation of the policy with effect from the 4th of April, 2022. Consequently, the federal government has directed all Telcos to strictly enforce the Policy on all SIMs issued (existing and new) in Nigeria.

“Outgoing calls will subsequently be barred for telephone lines that have not complied with the NIN-SIM linkage policy from the 4th of April, 2022. Subscribers of such lines are hereby advised to link their SIMs to their NINs before the Telcos can lift the restriction on their lines. Affected individuals are hereby advised to register for their NINs at designated centers and thereafter link the NINs to their SIMs through the channels provided by NIMC and the Telcos, including the NIMC mobile App.”

Pantami commended the Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Garba Dambatta, Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of NIMC, Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, along with their management and staff, as well as other notable bodies whose efforts had contributed to the monumental success of the exercise.

Pantami said enrolment for NIN would be a continuous exercise and that NIN would henceforth be a precondition for service in telcos, banks, Nigerian Immigration Service, and several other government services.