At least 51.3 million unique telecommunication devices may not have National Identification Numbers.
According to the Nigeria Communications Commission’s document, titled, ‘Deployment of a Device Management System: Project Information Memorandum,’ Nigeria had about 132 million unique devices connected to telecommunication networks in 2020.
It said, “With more than 200 million active lines on the Nigerian telecommunication network (as of December 2021), there is great potential for the development of a DMS in the Nigerian market.
“It is estimated that there were approximately 132 million unique devices on the telecommunication network in 2020.”
The Nigeria Identity Management Commission enrolment dashboard for April 2022, showed 80.7 million people had NINs as of April 23, 2022. This leaves 51.3 million device owners without NINs.
At numerous times, the NCC and NIMC have described Nigeria as a multi-SIM nation. They had explained that a unique NIN could have as much as an average of three to four SIMs.
According to the GSMA, the global organisation representing telecom operators, there were at least 97.5 million unique mobile subscribers in Nigeria as of September 2018.
The NIN-Subscriber Identity Module policy states that all telecom subscribers must link their SIMs to their NINs.
In the ‘Revised National Identity Policy for Sim Card Registration,’ the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, said, “Mandating the use of NIN for SIM card registration will accelerate the growth of the national identity database as the SIM card registration database is one of the largest databases holding the digital identity of Nigerians, including biometrics and other essential information on citizens.
“This will enable Nigeria to take giant strides towards improving national planning, overcoming security challenges and boosting our GDP.”
In December 2020, telecom subscribers were mandated by the Federal Government to link their SIMs and NINs or risk the consequences.
After extending the deadline for the linkage exercise numerous times, the government eventually directed telecom companies to bar outgoing calls from SIMs not linked to their NINs on the 4th of April 2022.
While announcing the directive, the government disclosed that 125 million SIMs had submitted their NINs for linkage and over 78 million NINs had been issued.
According to the NCC, there were 199.56 million active telecom subscribers as of March 2022, meaning about 74.56 million active telecom subscribers cannot make outgoing calls.
An industry expert said the devices include those used for tracking and may not just be mobile.
The Founder, e86 Limited, OluGbenga Odeyemi, stated that it was unbelievable that a policy as simple as the SIM-NIN has not been effectively implemented until now. He added that NIN was designed to be linked to everything as it relates to every Nigerian.
He said, “It is embarrassing to look back over the years, seeing how badly this has been implemented. The current director of NITDA has done well to fast forward the adoption of the NIN, I know there are a number of issues along the way but it’s important to focus on the results.
“Within the last one year, we have seen a lot of results, the implementation has not been perfect, but it’s been a lot better than what we saw in the previous years.”
According to Odeyemi, there may be a need to add more time to enable more people to get captured by NIMC because of bottlenecks in the registration process.
He added, “As it stands, there are bottlenecks in the registration process as the average Nigerian does not want to pay for the registration using third-party registration centres.
“This ultimately means that government registration centres where payment isn’t required are constantly jammed daily. Also, there is a need for more education. Most people still do not understand the essence of this policy. If possible, the government may also have to introduce incentives for those who successfully complete their registration.
“There are so many ways we can make improvements and I hope that we’ll continue to make things better.”
The President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, added, “If this amounts to about 51 million that cannot do business with their phones, and are being impoverished, the government should please not send people to poverty by this policy implementation.
“This is an appeal now to the president to reconsider this policy. On behalf of 51 million, I want to appeal for an extension. They should please extend it for the sake of doing good business in Nigeria. They should at least have a human face.”
Efforts to reach the Head, Corporate Communications, NIMC, Mr Kayode Adegoke were futile.