Nigerian govt. lifts 4-month ban on new SIM activation

After four months of doldrums in the telecommunications sector, the Federal Government of Nigeria has lifted the ban it placed on the registration and activation of new Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards. This came as a huge relief to many Nigerians who had been cut off from telecommunications due to the ban and even the telecom operators who had lost billions of revenue over the last four months.

The lifting, however, comes with a condition that the customer must have registered for the National Identification Number (NIN) and submit the same at the point of purchase of a new SIM. According to a statement signed by the Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, activation of new SIMs and the resumption of other activities earlier banned will take effect from Monday, April 19, 2021.

The statement further disclosed that the Minister, Dr. Isa Pantami had presented a Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration President Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, 26th of March, 2021.  “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,” the statement read.

The President was said to have made further improvements on the policy and endorsed it for implementation.

Before the Presidential approval, the key aspects of the draft Policy were said to have been presented to stakeholders at the 4th Review Meeting of the Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on the NIN-SIM registration which was held on Friday, 26th of February, 2021.  According to the statement, 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.

The statement added that 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,” the statement added.


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