Nigeria: Govt Lifts Ban On Activation of New SIM Cards, Revises Policy

15 April 2021

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Thursday, approved the activation of new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards.

The Minister, in agreement with industry stakeholders, also revised the National Digital Identity Policy for SIM card registration.

According to the Minister, the activation of new SIM card, which was banned in December last year, would begin on Monday April 19, 2021.

Pantami has therefore directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure the provisions of the policy were strictly followed by all operators and subscribers.

The Minister said the implementation of the policy and issuance of new SIMs and other suspended activities would resume on the same date, provided that verification had been completed and the guidelines fully adhered to.

According to a statement signed by the Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, an earlier policy was approved on February 4, 2020, while the revised policy was developed in early March 2021. The policy was further improved and endorsed for implementation by President Muhammadu Buhari, on March 26, 2021.

According to the statement, the final amendments to the revised policy, based on the directives of President Buhari to make the use of National Identification Number (NIN) mandatory for all SIM registration, were completed April, 14, 2021.

The policy includes guidelines on new SIM acquisition and activation, SIM replacement, new SIM activation for corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), among others.

According to the statement, "For the corporate registration, institutions will be required to appoint a Telecoms Master (at the minimum of an Executive Management level) to provide the operational Primary NIN representation. The Telecoms Master will also be responsible to ensuring that the users provide their NINs to serve as a secondary NIN.

"For IoT/M2M activations, SIM security protocols would be implemented on the SIM profile to ensure that SIMs can only be used for point to point data services specific to the URL they are working with. All other services will be barred."

Pantami noted that significant progress had been made in the NIN registration process across the country.

"Nonetheless, the Federal Government is committed to supporting all Nigerians and legal residents to obtain a NIN. The biometric verification process has been slower than anticipated, owing largely to the non-adherence of many previous SIM biometric capture processes to the NIMC standards.

"The Revised Policy will ensure that operators conform to the required standards for biometric capture. The guidelines in the policy have been painstakingly developed and while they are thorough, it should be noted that they have been developed that way in National interest since the SIM is essentially a national resource. Citizens and legal residents are encouraged to bear with the government as the process has been developed in the best interest of the country," the statement further said.

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