The Federal Government of Nigeria has relaxed the rule that if you misplace your SIM card or that it was stolen, you won’t be able to get a new one. This was contained in an order to the mobile network operators (MNO) by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Dr. Isa Pantami. The ban was placed by the government over security concerns even though they didn’t explain further. It was the same security concern that made the government some years ago mandate everyone who wished to use any telecom service to go and register their biometric details and a whole list of other private information. Now the government is asking everyone to link their National Identity Numbers (NIN) to their SIM cards with the deadline set to expire at the end of this month. Currently only about 43 million Nigerians have an national ID which means others would have to rush even in this COVID-19 era to try and get the number. There are now conflicting information coming that no one would get disconnected at the end of the month even though many subscribers still get the message daily from telecom networks to do so in order to avoid imminent disconnection.
The Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo said telecom operators were also not happy with the law not to sell new SIMs or replace lost ones but that they had succeeded in appealing to the government.
“We note the challenges experienced by customers seeking to replace or upgrade their SIM cards following the suspension of sale and activation of SIM cards by the government which also affected SIM replacement.
“We empathize with people who have been unable to reactivate their phone lines as a result of the suspension. Further to engagements with government on the matter, we are pleased to report that our members have been granted permission to carry out SIM replacement upon verification of the customer’s NIN. In this regard, our members are working with NIMC to ensure seamless system connectivity for verification of NINs.
We, therefore, seek the continued patience and understanding of our esteemed subscribers as we work with all stakeholders towards speedily resolution of issues affecting SIM Registration/Swap and activation. We assure you of restoring normal services in a seamless and effective manner as soon as possible”.