By Omobayo Azeez
At least, 2.2 million Nigerian subscribers have been disconnected from the networks of Mobile Number Operators (MNOs) in the country as a result of poor registration profile of their subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced that with this development, the telecoms industry have been finally cleansed of improperly registered SIM cards and those not registered at all before they were activated on the networks of the operators.
Umar Danbatta, the executive vice chairman of the commission, who made the disclosure recently explained that over the years, the NCC has tenaciously worked with determination and through various policy initiatives, to rid mobile networks of improperly or invalidly-registered SIM cards to ensure that all the current over 184 million registered SIM cards/mobile lines across MNOs’ networks have valid data that are traceable and not anonymous.
He said this is in line with one of the key agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to strengthen security of lives and property for all Nigerians.
“Our efforts received a boost, following the implementation of a September 12, 2019 ministerial directive that the NCC should compel service providers to block all improperly-registered SIM cards, pending when their owners regularise their registration,” he said.
The NCC boss stated that as at the time the ministerial order was issued, the commission, through its Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement team, had reduced the number of improperly-registered SIM cards on mobile networks in the country to 9.2 million.
As part of the commission’s ongoing regulatory interventions such as the setting up of the SIM Registration Industry Task Force, which led to several resolutions including the Industry Working Group (IWG) on harmonisation of SIM registration process with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure a clean SIM database, the commission had, in June 2019, commenced the second round of comprehensive verification audit of MNOs’ SIM card registrations, which was concluded in August 2019.
He said the audit was specifically to ensure strict adherence by telecom operators to the provisions of the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations 2011.
Following the September 2019 ministerial directive, however, the NCC, within a week, intensified efforts by reducing the number of improperly-registered SIM cards from 9.2 million to 2.2 million.
“We have since initiated the second phase of SIM deactivation based on the ministerial directive and as at today, we have completely deactivated the remaining 2.2 million lines on the networks.
“This is contrary to reports by a section of the media, suggesting that nothing has been done with respect to the issue of improperly-registered SIM cards,” he said.
The EVC assured all stakeholders that the commission will continue to aggressively pursue the national objectives of delivering an accurate database of telephone subscribers in Nigeria.
He said the SIM data submitted to the commission is constantly being validated for higher efficiency to support the national security objectives of the SIM registration exercise through NCC’s zero tolerance for deviations from the proper registration process.
“I also use this opportunity to restate the Commission’s commitment to the periodic SIM data audit, continuous compliance monitoring exercise on the MNOs, as well as constant consumer education and engagement against using improperly-registered SIM cards.
“With this, we would be able to, collectively, address national security concerns, especially kidnappings, banditry, armed robberies, cattle rustling and other crimes associated with SIM cards across the nation and to ensure that all SIM cards are traceable to their real owners,” he added.