NCC reaffirms February 28 deadline for SIM-NIN linkage

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The deadline for blocking telephone lines without National Identity Numbers (NIN) remains February 28, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has affirmed.

This was disclosed by Reuben Mouka, director of public affairs, NCC, on Monday. This is a follow-up to its April 2022 directive when the commission directed telcos to restrict outgoing calls on SIMs that have not submitted their NINs.

Reaffirming the NCC’s stance, Mouka said, “I am unaware of any extension and certain there won’t be. I don’t know what to say, but the fact is that there is no change in that deadline. The deadline, which is February 28, stands.”

Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in Lagos has restrained telecom operators from deactivating or barring any line or SIM not linked to their NINs.

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According to Channels TV, Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa restrained the telcos while ruling on an application filed by a Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje.

In April 2022, Ogungbeje filed a suit against MTN when his SIMs were barred, and the court, at the time, dismissed his suit for lack of merit. He filed an appeal, which is currently pending at the court of appeal.

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Ogungbeje had sued the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; MTN Nigeria Communications Plc and Airtel Networks Nigeria Limited,

Ogungbeje has now asked the court for an injunction pending appeal, restraining all the respondents (Federal Government of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; MTN Nigeria Communications Plc and Airtel Networks Nigeria Limited) from further outright barring, deactivating and or restricting any SIM cards or phone lines on Feb. 28, 2024, or any other scheduled date, pending the hearing and determination of his appeal at the Court of Appeal of Nigeria.

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Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa granted the lawyer’s request and restrained telcos. The Justice also ruled that his order subsists till the hearing and determination of the appeal filed by the lawyer.

In a December 2023 notice, the NCC asked telcos to bar SIMs that have not submitted their NINs by 28 February 2024, bar those whose NINs have been submitted but not verified by 29 March 2024, and bar those who have less than five lines linked to an unverified NIN by 15 April 2024.

It noted that all affected subscribers must be verified (biometrics and biodata) before their lines get unbarred. As these deadlines loom, telecom subscribers have asked the Federal Government for an extension, especially for the first one.

Adeolu Ogunbanjo, the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, disclosed to BusinessDay on Monday that a one-month extension will ensure more people can get their NINs and link their SIMs before the deadline.

“We want them to extend the deadline to March 31. There are still queues at NIMC centres. These centres are trying, but they can’t attend to everyone,” he said.

The NCC’s directive to restrict outgoing calls in April 2022 affected over 72.77 million active mobile subscriptions. About 125 million lines had been linked to a NIN at that time. Since then, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has not updated the number of SIMs linked to a NIN.

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