Nigeria Approves Activation of Newly Registered SIMs As Telcos Count Losses

Nigeria Approves Activation of Newly Registered SIMs As Telcos Count Losses

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami has coordinated and led the development of a Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration in collaboration with all other stakeholders.

SIM card registration was suspended in Nigeria following the government’s decision to affix National Identification Number (NIN) to every SIM. The decision however came with unpalatable results ranging from crowded gathering in the face COVID-19 to huge economic losses in the telecom industry.

The NIN registration exercise has stagnated the growth of telecom industry, with operators losing millions of subscribers as new SIM purchase, registration and activation were halted and many without NIN were disconnected.

As of March, the number of telecom subscribers in the country dropped by more than 11.84 million in four months, according to industry statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission.

The situation has drawn severe criticism from experts who believe the government is threading a dangerous path by prolonging the prohibition of new SIM registration and activation. The information and communication industry has served as the economy’s cash cow in the wake of pandemic-induced economic strains, yielding 14.70% of the 94.13% non-oil sector contributed to exit Nigeria from recession in Q4 2020.

The decision to pause the play of telecom growth has been widely seen as an anti-investment display in a time Nigeria needs Foreign Direct Investment most.

So in a press release on Thursday, 15th April, 2021 signed by Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Femi Adeluyi, he said the decision to lift the restriction on new sim purchase/registration is in line with the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, Section 23(a), specifies the role of the Minister to include the formulation, determination and monitoring of the general policy for the communications sector.

Nigeria’s minister of digital economy

The statement reads below.

An earlier Policy was approved on the 4th of February 2020, while the Revised Policy was developed in early March 2021. The final amendments to the revised Policy based on the directives of Mr President to make the use of NIN mandatory for all SIM registration were completed yesterday, 14th of April, 2021.

Prior to that, the key aspects of the draft Policy were presented to the stakeholders at the 4th Review Meeting of the Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on the NIN-SIM registration which held on Friday, 26th of February, 2021. Key stakeholders and members of the MTF who joined the Honourable Minister at the meeting included the EVC/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), DG/CEO of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), DG/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON). Others included the NCC Executive Commissioners for Technical Services and Stakeholder Management, MD/CEOs of MTN, Airtel, EMTS (9Mobile), NTEL, Spectranet and SMILE, as well as the COO of Glo.

Dr Pantami also presented the Revised Policy to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR on Friday, 26th of March, 2021. Mr President made further improvements and endorsed it for implementation. Mr President also commended the Honourable Minister for his commitment in carrying out the responsibility of developing the digital economy sector, including championing the NIN-SIM registration process.

The Policy includes Guidelines on New SIM Acquisition and Activation, SIM Replacement, New SIM Activation for Corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), amongst others. The possession of a National Identity number will be a prerequisite for each of these categories. For the Corporate registration, institutions will be required to appoint a Telecoms Master (at the minimum of an Executive Management level) to provide the operational Primary NIN representation. The Telecoms Master will also be responsible for ensuring that the users provide their NINs to serve as a Secondary NIN.

For IoT/M2M activations, SIM security protocols would be implemented on the SIM profile to ensure that SIMs can only be used for point to point data services specific to the URL they are working with. All other services will be barred. In the event that a data only service is particular to individual use (eg home car tracking, WiFi, MiFi services, etc), the standard NIN registration process will be followed. A Telecoms Master will also be required for Corporates requiring IoT/M2M activations. The full details of the requirements for each class of service will be made available in due course.

Significant progress has been made in the NIN registration process across the country. Nonetheless, the Federal Government is committed to supporting all Nigerians and legal residents to obtain a NIN. The biometric verification process has been slower than anticipated, owing largely to the non-adherence of many previous SIM biometric capture processes to the NIMC standards. The Revised Policy will ensure that operators conform to the required standards for biometric capture.

The Guidelines in the Policy have been painstakingly developed and while they are thorough, it should be noted that they have been developed that way in National interest since the SIM is essentially a national resource. Citizens and legal residents are encouraged to bear with the government as the process has been developed in the best interest of the country.

The implementation of the Policy will commence on Monday, 19th of April 2021. The issuance of New SIMs and other suspended activities will resume on the same date, as long as verification is done and the guidelines are fully adhered to. The Honourable Minister has also directed NCC and NIMC to ensure that the provisions of the Policy are strictly followed by all operators and subscribers.

Dr Pantami wishes to thank Nigerians for their patience and compliance with the Federal Government’s directive on the NIN-SIM registration exercise. He reiterated the government’s commitment to continually taking decisions aimed at easing the pains of the citizens with regard to issues related to NIN and SIM registration.

However, while Nigerians rejoice that they can once again, purchase and register SIMs freely, the question many have been asking in view of the directive that a new SIM must be registered with NIN is: what will a foreign investor, who just touched down at the Nigerian airport, and needs a new phone line to make a call, do?

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