Nigerian telcos told to block SIMs not linked to digital ID by Feb 28
Companies offering telecommunications services in Nigeria have had a fresh order from the federal government to entirely block all SIM cards not linked to the biometrics-backed National Identification Number (NIN) by February 28, 2024, at the latest.
The directive has been handed down by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), according to corporate notices issued by some of the telcos to their customers and partners.
In MTN Nigeria’s own notice cited by Punch, the telco says the move is in line with an “industry-wide directive” which requires all SIM cards not linked to NINs, or those linked to unverified NINs, to be suspended on or before February 28, 2024.
Giving further information on the issue, MTN Nigeria said phone lines linked to NINs which have been submitted but not verified, will be blocked on or before March 29. This is for NINs linked to five or more SIM cards. In instances where five or less SIM cards are linked to submitted but unverified NINs, the lines will be barred on or before April 15.
While encouraging its subscribers to submit their NINs for verification, the mobile network operator said it has also reinforced its teams and infrastructure in order to make the process convenient for them as they work to meet compliance requirements set out by the government.
About 12 million mobile subscribers may be affected by the decision, Business Day points out, alluding to the NCC’s figures of September. The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) will help enforce the new directive.
Since April last year, an order for the partial block of over 70 million SIM cards not linked to the owner’s digital ID has been in place. However, it is a one-way barring as only outgoing calls are not supported on such SIM cards. From February 28 therefore, all categories of SIM cards whose owners have not done the NIN linkage will be fully deprived of access to all call and data services.
Nigeria started the drive to link SIM cards to NINs in December 2020, with the federal government saying it is part of its strategy to enhance national security. The growing uptake of digital ID in the country has largely contributed to the exercise.
In Namibia where a similar SIM registration exercise is ongoing, authorities have warned that they will begin blocking non-compliant SIM cards from January 1, amid calls from privacy advocates for a halt to the process over data privacy concerns.