By Favour Unukaso
THE Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has ordered telecommunications operators in the country to implement full network barring on all Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards not linked to their National Identification Numbers (NINs) by February 28, 2024.
The operators, including MTN, Airtel, and Globacom, among others, have been lettered to carry out this exercise.
As of August, checks showed that the telecoms operators have 220 million subscriptions, of which MTN has 85 million; Glo, 61 million; Airtel, 60 million and 9mobile, 13 million.
The mandatory NIN-SIM Linkage exercise began in December 2020 as directed by the Federal Government. Through the process, the telecoms operators lost over 20 million subscriptions as some subscribers abandoned their lines. However, the operators, with several promo packages, including advising subscribers to link their SIMs and get N20, 000 free credits, recovered some lines as more Nigerians get registered for NIN. Findings showed that about 10 million were yet to be recovered.
As it is now, the new directive might result in the operators further losing more subscriptions as from first quarter 2024.
Indeed, according to MTN, in a document made available to journalists, Tuesday, dated December 18, 2023, titled: ‘Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Directive on Compliance with the SIM Registration Regulation,’ signed by Company Secretary, Uto Ukpanah, sent to its shareholders, disclosed that it received a formal directive from the NCC to implement full network barring on all phone lines for which the subscribers have not submitted their NINs and those whose NINs are unverified.
MTN said this is part of an industry-wide directive that requires phone lines for which the subscribers have not submitted their NINs to be barred on or before February 28, 2024.
The firm explained that with regard to NINs that have been submitted but not verified, such lines are to be barred on or before March 29, 2024, where five or more lines are linked to an unverified NIN. Similarly, it disclosed that where less than five lines are linked to an unverified NIN, such lines are to be barred on or before April 15, 2024.
“All affected subscribers must be verified (biometrics and biodata) before their lines are unbarred,” MTN stated.
The telecommunications firm explained that this is a follow-up to the NCC’s directive on April 4, 2022 requiring operators to restrict outgoing calls (one-way barring) for subscribers whose lines are not associated with NINs.
MTN said it is further engaging the affected subscribers through “all our channels to encourage them to submit their NINs for verification. As part of these efforts, we are enhancing the capacity of our various service outlets to make the process smoother and more efficient. We are committed to ensuring that our subscribers comply with the NCC directive and will continue to work with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to accelerate the NIN verification process.”
The operator appreciated the effort being made by the Federal Government to implement a reliable and sustainable National Identity Management system, which is a crucial enabler for national and economic development.
“Therefore, as a law-abiding corporate citizen and in line with our operating licence requirements, we are committed to complying with the industry-wide directive from the NCC and will provide further updates to investors on progress and potential impact with the release of FY 2023 results.
“We urge all our subscribers who have not yet linked their NIN to their lines to take immediate action by visiting the nearest MTN outlet or using any of our digital channels before the deadlines. Those without a NIN should visit any of the NIMC’s enrollment centers nationwide to enrol for NIN,” it stated.