40 Million Phone Lines Deactivated as SIM-NIN Deadline Expires

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Over the weekend, telecommunication operators in Nigeria took the drastic step of deactivating no fewer than 40 million phone lines following the lapse of the February 28, 2024 deadline set by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The directive mandated telecom consumers to link their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards to their National Identity Numbers (NINs).

This staggering figure marks a significant increase from the initially projected 12 million telephone lines slated for deactivation in line with the NCC’s directive.

In a notice issued in December 2023, the NCC instructed telcos to block SIM cards not linked to their owners’ NINs by the February deadline. Despite calls for an extension, the NCC Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, firmly ruled out any possibility, emphasizing that telcos failing to comply with the deadline would face sanctions.

Initially, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, had disclosed plans for telcos to deactivate 12 million lines in adherence to the directive. However, Adebayo revealed on Sunday that the number had skyrocketed to 40 million, clarifying that SIMs lacking NINs were included in the tally.

In an exclusive interview with The PUNCH, Adebayo shed light on the situation, stating, “Over 40 million lines have been blocked, affecting customers who failed to submit their NINs. Some individuals have not registered their SIMs or participated in the harmonization program. This alarming number underscores the issue of unregistered communication channels despite repeated warnings.”

Additionally, the NCC’s notice in December 2023 instructed Global Satellite Mobile Communications operators to deactivate SIMs of holders whose NINs had been submitted but not verified by March 29, 2024. Furthermore, action was mandated against those with fewer than five lines linked to an unverified NIN by April 15, 2024.

The SIM-NIN synchronization initiative, introduced by the Federal Government on December 16, 2020, aimed to bolster security efforts by enabling the tracking of criminals. However, questions have arisen regarding its effectiveness, particularly in tracking bandits and kidnappers who frequently utilize mobile telephone lines for ransom negotiations.

As of now, Nigeria boasts 224.7 million active mobile telephone lines, according to data released by the NCC on its website.


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