Nigerian Govt Lifts Ban On Registration of New SIM Cards

Registration henceforth will be done with the National Identification Number.

The Nigerian government on Thursday announced that it has approved the activation of new SIM card registration with mandatory National Identification Number (NIN) linking, starting from April 19.

This was disclosed in a statement issued and signed by Femi Adeluyi, Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.

"The implementation of the policy will commence on Monday, 19th of April 2021. The issuance of new SIMs and other suspended activities will resume on the same date, as long as verification is done and the guidelines are fully adhered to," the statement reads.

Mr Adeluyi stated that the minister has also directed the Nigerian Communications Commission and NIMC to ensure that the provisions of the policy are strictly followed by all operators and subscribers.

The ban

On December 9 last year, the government ordered mobile telecommunication operators in the country to stop the sale and registration of new SIM cards.

"In line with the Federal Government desire to consolidate the achievement of the SIM Card registration exercise of September, 2019, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to embark on another audit of the Subscriber Registration Database again," the communication ministry said.

It said the objective of the audit exercise was to verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM Card Registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Commission.

"Accordingly, MNOs are hereby directed to immediately suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM Cards until the audit exercise is concluded, and Government has conveyed the new direction," the ministry statement read.

Steps taken so far

Mr Adeluyi in the statement explained that with the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, Section 23(a), the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, coordinated and led the development of a revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM card registration in collaboration with all other stakeholders.

He noted that the key aspects of the draft policy were presented to the stakeholders at the 4th review meeting of the Ministerial Task Force on the NIN-SIM registration which was held in February.

According to the statement, Mr Pantami also presented the revised policy to President Muhammadu Buhari, on March 26, and the final amendments were completed Wednesday with further improvements and endorsed by the president.

The statement noted that the policy includes guidelines on new SIM acquisition and activation, SIM replacement, New SIM activation for corporates and Internet-of-Things, Machine-to-Machine, amongst others.

"For the corporate registration, institutions would be required to appoint a Telecoms Master (at the minimum of an Executive Management level) to provide the operational Primary NIN representation," it said.

The Telecoms Master would also be responsible for ensuring that the users provide their NINs to serve as a secondary NIN, according to the statement.

The statement said, "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.

"In the event that a data only service is particular to individual use (eg home car tracking, WiFi, MiFi services, etc), the standard NIN registration process will be followed. A Telecoms Master will also be required for Corporates requiring IoT/M2M activations."

Speaking on the NIN registration progress, Mr Adeluyi said the biometric verification process had been slower than anticipated, owing largely to the non-adherence of many previous SIM biometric capture processes to the National Identity Management Commission standards.

He added that the revised policy would ensure that operators conform to the required standards for biometric capture.

He urged citizens and legal residents to bear with the government as the process had been developed in the best interest of the country.

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