Blog update – Nigerian SIMs – a National Resource?

Update 19th April 2021: Nigeria will resume registration of new SIM cards in the next week

The Nigerian government says telecommunications companies will resume registration, activation, and replacement of SIM cards on April 19th, after they halted the process months ago.

The registration will follow the new policy guidelines approved by the government which makes it mandatory for anyone to be issued a SIM to have the National Identity Number.

According to the government statement, possession of a National Identity Number (NIN) will be a prerequisite for new SIM acquisition and activation, SIM replacement, new SIM activation for corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), amongst others.

Corporate registrars will be required to appoint a telecoms master (at executive management level or above) to provide the operational primary NIN representation. The Telecom master will also be responsible for ensuring that users provide their NIN to serve as a Secondary NIN.

Most countries consider telephone numbers as national resources but is the Nigerian government thinking radically by stating “the SIM is essentially a national resource”?

Maybe if governments and regulators consider SIM cards in the same manner as telephone numbers, then the focus on managing SIM registration services based on quality data collection and management rather than forcing operators to rush and register as many numbers as possible without checks for fraud will be in the past?

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Following the colossal $5.2 billion fine imposed on MTN by NCC, the spectre of SIM registration is once again disrupting the telecommunications sector in Nigeria.

NCC has ordered Nigerian operators to cease issuing new SIM cards for a period of over four months whilst it completes its sector wide audit of compliance to SIM registration regulations. Auditing SIM registration compliance is laudable but this should be an ongoing activity and should not disable the industry for many months.

At the same time NCC has mandated all subscribers need to validate their SIM registrations with the newly introduced national identity programme. Again, it is logical to align and link SIM registration with national identity cards to tackle crime and terrorism. It is sad to see that this positive government initiative has resulted in new opportunities for Nigerian subscribers to be defrauded.

Issuing national identity cards is supposed to be free in Nigeria yet the lack of control and the panic to get SIM and National Identify cards registered before the NCC deadline means that many subscribers are being charged up to 10,000 naira.

Similarly, the government rush to maximise the registration of SIM cards with national identity cards has created mass panic amongst the Nigerian population resulting in huge inconvenience to consumers through the massive delays at registration centres, as well as creation of new types of SIM registration related fraud.

As expected, NCC has been forced to extend the deadline for national registration which is likely to further prolong the chaos and angst across Nigeria.

One wonders why the Nigerian authorities decided to coordinate both the SIM registration audit and force nationwide registration of SIM cards with national identity cards at the same time?

It is not surprising that the telecommunication sector is in chaos and Nigerian subscribers are suffering from these poorly thought out and executed initiatives which can only damage public credibility of SIM registration in Nigeria.

Lessons to be learned?

Auditing of SIM registration compliance should be an efficient and ongoing activity which minimises disruption to operators and subscribers.

Don’t push two nationally disruptive initiatives at the same time. It would have been better to have staggered the national alignment of SIM registration with national identity cards after the completion of the SIM registration audit allowing SIM sales and registration activities to resume as well as providing sufficient time for the industry and population to update their SIM registrations.

Sadly another example of lack of coordination between government bodies and a political focus on quantity rather than quality!

https://guardian.ng/news/enrollees-decry-extortions-queues-return-to-nin-centres/