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SIM-NIN: Deactivated subscribers storm telecom outlets, queues mount

Some telecommunication subscribers were left stranded on Tuesday after telecom companies barred their lines from making calls following a directive from the Federal Government.

The Federal Government had on Monday directed telecom companies to enforce compliance with its National Identification Number-Subscriber Identity Module policy by blocking outgoing calls on all unlinked lines after the deadline for the SIM-NIN verification expired on March 31.

While giving the directive, the government revealed that 125 million SIMs had submitted their NINs for linkage.

The Nigerian Communications Commission stated that there were 197.77 million active telecom subscribers as of February 2022.

This means that over 72.77 million active telecom subscribers will be affected by the government directive after the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria confirmed that its members would comply with the directive.

In a statement on Monday, it said, “ALTON members are committed to complying with the instructions and call on telecommunication subscribers who have not obtained and/or linked a NIN to their SIMs, to do so at any of the designated centres.”

On Tuesday, many subscribers woke up to an inability to make calls on their lines.

Checks by our correspondent on Tuesday revealed that subscribers have started visiting telecom service centres in droves to link their NIN to their SIMs.

At the Ojodu centre of MTN, representatives of the company were seen trying to help subscribers link their SIMs despite a server downtime.

One subscriber said, “I woke up and I couldn’t make calls. I have not been able to reach my clients whose orders I have to fulfil, and this is really affecting me.”

“I have tried to link my SIM to my NIN with the code, but it is not going through.”

Many of the subscribers at the centres corroborated this. According to some of them, they have been trying to reach their family members and businesses but can’t.

The President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said people were rushing to the centres because of the commercial undertone of the ban.

He said, “Here we are, if you do not do it, you can only receive calls. They should please not suffer subscribers any further.

“The implication of this is that a lot of subscribers would be stuck, and businesses would be affected. There are also a lot of commercial undertones to this as a lot of people would lose their businesses, because they can’t call out. The economic and commercial implications on subscribers would run into billions which is not good for now. People can’t make calls but can receive them. That is not good at all.”

According to him, telecom and NIN service centres are likely to witness a surge reminiscent of 2020 because of the government’s policy. He added that the NIN agents were likely to profit from this because of racketeering.

Ogunbanjo stated, “There is the case of new racketeering by NIN agents which we have been trying to avoid. Because people are under pressure, they may start to use third-party agents, who may not be thorough in their registration process.

“This would create new problems because if you put a face to a wrong name, the owner of the NIN would be held accountable if caught. NIN officials would make money out of this. Prior to the ban, immediate NIN registration used to be N10,000. Now, this is expected to skyrocket since subscribers have been boxed in.”

A source in one of the telecom companies added that telcos would likely suffer some form of revenue loss in the short term because of the current move by the government.

According to the source, voice revenue is a major bulk of telco revenue.

The source said, “This would affect our revenue stream since voice is a big part of our revenue. This is so because when you yank off some of your subscribers, this is expected.

“Some people use more than one service provider. This may prompt people to abandon some of their SIMs. But if you slice or dice it anyway, it is still revenue loss as you would be losing some of your subscribers.”

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