Relief as FG Extends SIM, NIN Linkage Deadline to April

Another reprieve came yesterday for mobile telephone subscribers yet to link their subscriber identification modules (SIM) with their National Identity Numbers (NIN) as the federal government extended the deadline by two months.

With the extension, the fourth since December when the exercise began, the deadline for the telephone subscribers to comply or lose their lines has now shifted from February 9 to April 6, 2021.

However, the federal government said so far, a total of 56.18 million NINs have been received by mobile network operators as at February 1; up from the initial 47.8 million NINs received as of January 18.

The federal government, at the expiration of the initial January 19 deadline for the submission of NINs had extended it to February 9 for all telecoms subscribers that have registered for NIN, including those that were yet to register for NIN to submit their NIN for linkage with their SIM cards.

The April deadline was conveyed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, during a meeting of the Ministerial Taskforce on NIN-SIM registration, which held on Monday.

In a statement yesterday by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and signed by its Director for Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Pantami stated that “the extension is to give Nigerians and legal residents more time to integrate their NIN with their SIM.”

The meeting where the new deadline was announced, was chaired by the minister and attended by key stakeholders, including the EVC/CEO of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta; the DG/CEO of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Mr. Aliyu Aziz; the DG/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Abdullahi Kashifu and the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo.

Others include the MD/CEOs of MTN, Airtel, 9Mobile, Ntel, Spectranet and SMILE, as well as the COO of Globacom.
According to the statement, a total of 56.18 million NINs have been collected by the mobile network operators.

Each NIN is usually tied to an average of three to four SIMs and this infers that the current figure accounts for a significant portion of the existing SIMs. The number of NINs collected represents a significant increase when compared with the 47.8 million reported by the technical committee on January 18, 2021.

The statement said: “Over 1,060 registration centres for NIN have been activated and made operational by NIMC across the country, while Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have opened hundreds of centres and are rapidly deploying resources to open thousands of other NIN enrolment centres across states of the country. This is in line with the policy of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to enhance security and make the process of obtaining NINs easier for Nigerians.”

Pantami reiterated the need for Nigerians and legal residents who are yet to register for the NIN to be diligent and take advantage of the extension to enroll for their NINs and link with their SIMs.

He said: “The federal government applauds all Nigerians and persons of other nationalities for their understanding, cooperation and for enthusiastically participating in the exercise.

“The honourable minister also commended the efforts of NIMC, NCC, MNOs and all other relevant government and private sector organisations for their unflinching support towards the success of the exercise.”

He said President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his satisfaction with the progress made on the linkage and commended him and all stakeholders for their roles.

Pantami implored applicants to follow the safety guidelines at all the NIN enrolment centres and ensure compliance with the booking system in place.

“This protocol is in line with the Executive Order on COVID-19 2020 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 27th of January 2021, in keeping with the provisions of the Quarantine Act 2004,” he said, adding: “It is noteworthy that Sections 27 and 29 of the National Identity Management Commission Act 2007 provides for the mandatory use of National Identity Number for transactions, including application and issuance of a passport, opening of personal bank accounts, purchase of insurance policies, voter registration, obtaining credit, among others.”

On the perceived slow rate of NIN registration and issuance, which is put at 56.18 million as at February 1, compared to the 208 million registered SIMs across networks, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, said each of the 56.18 million NIN holders, has between three and four SIM cards that were registered under a single name and identity, which brings the number of registered SIMs attached to the 56.18 million NIN holders, to about 168.54 million.

He added that out of the estimated 208 million SIM cards from the 56.18 million NIN holders, about 20 million of the SIMs are used for machine interface devices like Point of Sales (PoS) and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), which would further add to the estimated 168.54 million registered SIM cards to reach an estimated 188.54 million registered SIM cards, a figure he said was close to the 208 million registered SIM cards across networks.

Adebayo added that NIN registration and submission have not been slow as perceived by some Nigerians.

He, however, said the little margin between the 47.8 million NINs that was recorded in January 18, 2021, and the 52.18 million that was recorded as at February 1, was negligible since telecoms operators have commenced registration and issuance of NINs.

He called on telecoms subscribers yet to register and obtain their NINs to take advantage of the registration points from telecoms operators and branch offices of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to do so and submit their NINs for integration with their SIM cards.

Chairman, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, commended Pantami and the NCC for the extension of the deadline to April 6, which he said was close to the June 30, 2021 date that NATCOMS proposed to the minister.

“The further extension of the deadline for NIN-SIM linkage from February 9 to April 6 shows that the minister has listening ears, and we commend him for that. We were already working to challenge the minister in court before this new extension. So, we are likely going to drop the idea of instituting a court case against the minister,” Ogunbanjo said.

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