…say ‘unlinked SIMs won’t be blocked as NIMC registers 2 million more’
Telecommunication companies in Nigeria have submitted about 43 million National Identity Numbers to the National Identity Management Commission for verification to enable them to register with their respective Subscriber Identification Modules.
Also, as the deadline for telephone subscribers with NINs to register their SIMs with the identity numbers elapsed on Tuesday (today), operators have said that SIMs with unlinked submitted NINs would not be blocked.
It was also gathered that so far the NIMC had been able to provide about 45 million NINs, as it was able to register about two million people in the last one month after the Federal Government ordered citizens to register their SIMs with valid NINs.
Sources at the commission confirmed this to our correspondent, as they noted that the crowds that greeted the agency after the government’s directive had been overwhelming.
On December 15, 2020, the Federal Government declared that after December 30, 2020, all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies would be blocked.
It later extended the December 30, 2020 deadline following widespread opposition against the earlier announcement and gave three weeks’ extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020 to January 19, 2021.
It also gave six weeks’ extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020 to February 9, 2021, but many organisations have called for a further deadline extension or outright suspension of the NIN registration process due to the large crowds who had yet to have their NINs.
Although the NIMC refused to speak on the matter after several calls and messages were sent to senior officials of the commission on the subject, operators in the telecommunications sector told our correspondent on Monday that about 43 million NINs had been submitted to the agency for verification.
Speaking on behalf of the firms, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, said the NINs were sent to NIMC for verification in order to ensure that the numbers were harmonised with their respective SIMs.
He said, “I don’t have the number of SIM cards that have been linked but at the last count, NIMC told us that they have about 43 million Nigerians who have NINs.
“So, we will be safe to assume that a large percentage of these citizens have delivered their NINs to the operators by way of dialing the USSD access code and/or visiting the operators’ websites and uploading their NINs on the websites.”
He added, “And by extension, I will be right to say that operators have delivered those NINs to NIMC. Now the second part of it, which is not in our control, is how many of these numbers uploaded by the operators and forwarded to NIMC have been harmonised?
“How many of them have been verified? That is not in our control, but as an industry, the large numbers we received from subscribers have since been delivered to NIMC.”
Adebayo said it was now the call of the commission to educate the public on the number of NINs that had been interrogated and cleared for harmonisation with SIMs.
“It is now for NIMC to confirm to the public whether those numbers have been verified, but as many subscribers who had sent their NINs to us, we have delivered same to NIMC,” Adebayo said.
On whether operators had met with the government as regards the deadlines for the registration of SIMs with valid NINs, he said the ministerial committee had not met on the matter in the last one week.
Adebayo said, “Well, not in the last one week. I am also on the ministerial steering committee representing the operators, while some of the operators and CEOs of telecommunications firms are also there.
“We haven’t had such meetings in the last one week and there is none that I’m aware of. We are hoping that one will be called soon, especially now that we are nearing the deadline.”
He added, “I can confirm that we have started such meetings and yes, the minister has ensured that the operators are carried along in the decisions that are made.
“However, on whether there has been a recent meeting, we haven’t met in the last one week but I’m hoping that one will be called in the next couple of days.”
When asked if the government would block the SIMs of subscribers who could not have their SIMs registered despite submitting their NINs to their service providers, the ALTON chairman said such SIMs would not be blocked.
He said, “If you already have your NIN and you have delivered the number to your service provider and it has been acknowledged and forwarded to NIMC, I don’t think the penalty will be there for you as from tomorrow (Tuesday) if your SIM has not been registered with the NIN.
“This is because as far as you are concerned as a subscriber, you have uploaded that number to your operator and forwarded to NIMC.
“Now the further interrogation of that means that you are not supposed to be penalised because you have done what you are required to do to your service provider and to NIMC.”
Adebayo said the penalty would be mainly for those who do not have the NIN and who were unable to deliver their NINs to their service providers.
“So those in the problem category are those who do not have the NIN and who have not delivered the NIN to their service providers by tomorrow (Tuesday).
“Therefore if you as a subscriber have submitted your NIN to your service provider and this has been forwarded to NIMC, at this stage I am not aware of any penalty for you.”
Director-General, NIMC, Aliya Aziz, as well as the spokesperson for the commission, Kayode Adegoke, did not pick several calls to their lines and were yet to reply to messages sent to them on the matter.
Also, when contacted on whether there would be an extension of the January 19 deadline, the media aide to the communications minister, Uwa Suleiman, replied, “I am not aware of any.”
She, however, stated that if there was any of such information, the communications ministry or any of its relevant agencies would make it public.