The recent decision of the Ministry of Communication to link phone numbers with the National Identity Numbers of subscribers have moved from backlash to many rumors. Recently, the news reported that the Nigerian Communication Commission has disconnected millions of subscribers who did not link their NIN to Subscriber Identification Module (SIM).
That has rekindled the uproar that has followed the development, as thousands of subscribers scramble to register for NIN and avoid disconnection amid COVID-19 surge.
Civil society groups have gone to court to stop the Ministry and the NCC from cutting subscribers off from telecommunication services owing to the registration.
The Commission has however moved to clarify matters on the disconnection controversy. In a statement signed by Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission on Thursday, the regulator said the claim of mass disconnection is unfounded.
It added that there has been erroneous assumption that, among other issues, every SIM connection has a unique human subscriber, and it is fueling the rumor that the Commission is massively cutting subscribers off.
“The attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been drawn to numerous publications in both print and electronic media regarding the unfounded fears of mass disconnection of telephone subscribers as a result of the ongoing linkage of SIM Registration Records with the National Identity Number (NIN).
It is therefore necessary for the Commission to issue this clarification in order to allay the fears of subscribers and the general public.
Most of these publications are based on the erroneous assumption that for every network or SIM connection, there is one unique human subscriber.
However, with the advent of social media and App-driven digital environment, network subscription went beyond human subscribers to include machines like PoS, Routers, Wi-Fi devices, electricity meters, CCTV, tracking devices etc.
A recent survey conducted in Nigeria has shown that on average, there are now approximately 4 to 5 SIMs to every human subscriber. This explains the basis of allowing the linkage of up to 7 SIMs to 1 unique NIN in the recently launched Federal Government Portal.
Thus, if there are 43 million Nigerians with NINs, this could account for about 172 million SIMs already linked to NINs. It is very important to emphasize that the current exercise of linking NIN to SIM(s) is for the common good of all Nigerians, as it has far reaching benefits.
Apart from enhancing our general safety, this will help in such vital exercises like National Budgeting, Policy Planning, Social Intervention programs and many more.
The Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy has assured that the Government will continue to review the exercise in the light of experiences to ensure its smooth implementation.
We call on all our media partners, publishers and reporters to always endeavour to seek clarification from the Commission before going to the press, especially on sensitive issues,” the statement said.
However, the concern of insufficient registration facilities still lingers as it instigates mass gathering amidst rising cases of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Communication, the NCC and telcos are yet to work out a framework that will quell crowding in registration centers, which is also giving rise to reports of extortion by some staff of the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) as people rush to beat the February deadline.