SIM-NIN: Deactivated subscribers want three-month extension, enrolment centres congested

A large number of telecommunication subscribers trying to link their National Identification Number and Subscriber Identity Module together were left frustrated on Wednesday as heavy traffic on telecom networks slowed down the process.

This is coming after the Federal Government through telecom companies barred Nigerians who had not linked their SIMs and NINs together from making calls

Federal Government hadon Monday directed telecom companies to block outgoing calls on all unlinked lines after the deadline for the SIM-NIN verification exercise expired on March 31.

The move was aimed at enforcing compliance with the Federal Government’s SIM-NIN policy.

On Wednesday, telecom service centres were jam-packed as subscribers rushed to link their SIMs and NINs.

However, because of the slow pace of the network, service centres couldn’t help many Nigerians that were stranded.

This came as telecom consumers under the aegis of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers asked the Federal Government to extend the NIN-SIM policy deadline by three months.

According to the President of the association, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, telecom service centres are likely to continue to witness an increase in human traffic if the Federal Government doesn’t consider extending the implementation of the SIM-NIN policy by three months.

Ogunbanjo stated, “I was at the service centres today and they were jampacked. All the network operating centres were jam-packed.

“People were complaining about their inability to make outgoing calls. The implementation of the SIM-NIN is a problem. Again, NIMC doesn’t have the required capacity to process large volumes of data.

“The rush is serious. The (enrolment) centres were all complaining about the slow pace of the linking process. The crowd is growing and there is little they can do in one day because the network is slow now. This is unfortunate. We are pushing for at least another three-month extension.

“Now that they have at least implemented the policy, Nigerians now know why they cannot make calls if they do not link their SIMs. No more ongoing calls. It is time for the government to draw back and extend the deadline by another three months and finally implement.”

The Chairman, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, had on Wednesday said the number of subscribers trying to link their SIMs and NINs together had increased.

He said, “It has been a lot of pressure at various experience centres. There has also been a lot of pressure on the systems.

“It has been a lot of concerns expressed by the members of the public to our various contact centres, so it appears the heat is coming to all of us at this time.

“Unfortunately, we have been on this for fourteen months – many people didn’t respond to the calls to link their SIM to their NIN, and so we are where we are.”

According to the government, 125 million SIMs have submitted their NINs for linkage. The Nigerian Communications Commission revealed on its portal that there were 197.77 million active telecom subscribers as of February 2022.

About 72.77 million active telecom subscribers currently have issues pertaining to SIM-NIN linkage.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking source in the telecom industry revealed that even though telecom companies have submitted the SIM and NIN information of about 125 million subscribers, the NIMC has problems with integrating most of the information.

The source added that the increase in linkage request volume was the reason why most subscribers were having issues linking their SIMs and NINs together.

The source said, “The process of linking SIMs to NINs might be slower now. This is because the inbuilt capacity for the process is being stretched. The capacity is slow. It is not designed for this rush.

“Nothing has changed in terms of the NIMC’s capacity. There are still challenges. You know the NIMC is also doing NIN, people that just want to get their NIN done are likely to be stranded. If the network is slow, it is from NIMC. NIMC doesn’t have the required capacity to link SIMs fully yet.

“The NIMC doesn’t have the capacity to harmonise the NINs and SIMs too. The NIMC is the custodian of NIN and we are the ones handling SIMs. On our part, when you look at the value chain, telcos have linked the NINs that subscribers are providing, although a problem arises when we pass it over to the NIMC to integrate into their own system. They have not been able to do that. They are doing it, but their capacity is not enough. They need better servers and networks to do these things.”

In February, many telecom subscribers were stranded in the nation after a technical glitch in the NIMC’s servers grounded SIM-NIN-related services.

It took NIMC about a week to resolve the issues. In February, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, confirmed that NIMC had the infrastructure, salary, and welfare challenges, among others.

He said the government was struggling to pay salaries and implement measures to help the commission complete its job.

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