The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that its proposed regulation on the minimum of 18 years of age for SIM acquisition is aimed at protecting minors in the country. The Commission said this was also in accordance with the Nigerian constitution, which recognises 18 as the age at which a Nigerian can enter a contractual relationship.
The Commission in a statement signed by its Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, explained that SIM acquisition is a contract between service providers and their subscribers, which requires the subscriber to have proper legal status, be of mature mind, and be rational enough to bear certain responsibilities, obligations, and liabilities imposed by a contract.
“The proposal is, therefore, to protect minors. Parents and guardians can acquire SIMs in their names on behalf of their children and wards in which case they assume whatever responsibilities or liabilities arising from the usage of such SIMs, a measure expected to also strengthen national security.
“While the Commission is progressively pursuing digital inclusion for all, the draft proposal is intended to guarantee increased monitoring of children and shield the minors from undue liabilities in line with NCC’s Child Online Protection drive,” the Commission stated.
NCC noted that the consultative engagement process is still ongoing, adding that it would review all input from relevant stakeholders in this regard and would consider and deliberate on all comments before issuing a final regulatory instrument.
In accordance with sections 70 and 71 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003 and the Commission’s consultative engagement process, which defines its rule-making process, the Commission on Tuesday held a public inquiry for all relevant stakeholders to provide input on the draft regulatory instrument.
Telecom operators at the public inquiry on the draft regulations had pleaded with the NCC to reduce the age limit to 15 years to allow minors to acquire SIMs. Specifically, Smile Communications in its submissions on the regulations said that while it understood the need to set an age limit in respect of procuring communications services, Section 59(3) of the Labour Act approves the eligibility of young persons under the age of 14 years to engage in a contractual relationship.
Smile, therefore, urged the Commission to consider the provisions of the Labour Act and adopt the same in eligibility for SIM ownership. The operator recommended that the age limit for procuring communications services should be expanded to permit ages 15 and above.
On its part, MTN also urged the Commission to revise the age limit. MTN asked the commission to make the age limit 14 years and above. The NCC, however, insisted on 18 years and above for anyone who wants to own and register a SIM in Nigeria.