Approximately 11.2 million active GSM subscribers may be locked out of telephone services beginning Thursday if their numbers are not   linked with their National Identity Numbers (NINs), as  the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) moves to enforce  compliance with  directive for linkage of Subscribers Identity Module, SIM to NIN of respective owners.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Dr Aminu Maida, reiterated this directive at the ongoing 45th Kaduna International Trade Fair, emphasizing the critical importance of linking SIMs to NINs for national security. reports that a Federal High Court  on Tuesday issued an injunction restraining telecom operators from deactivating or terminating unlinked SIMs, however the NCC are proceeding with the enforcement. The injunction was a response to an application seeking to restrain the government, the Attorney-General, MTN, NCC, and Airtel from deactivating SIMs on February 28, 2024, pending an Appeal Court decision. Notably, the NCC and telecom operators have not appealed this court decision.

Introduced on December 16, 2020, the SIM-NIN synchronization aimed to aid security agencies in tracking criminals. However, questions have arisen about why these measures have not been effectively utilized to track criminals, especially in cases of ransom communication through mobile phones.

As of yesterday, the NCC reported 224.7 million active mobile lines, while the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) stated that 104 million NINs have been registered. The NCC had previously set February 28, 2024, as the deadline for telecom operators to block unlinked subscribers, and this deadline stands according to Dr  Maida.

Telecom operators, represented by the Chairman of the Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr Gbenga Adebayo, affirmed their commitment to implementing the directive, stating that the barring of affected subscribers will begin today. He emphasized the necessity of NINs for reliable identity management, economic inclusion, and access to government services.

However, the president of the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria, Deolu Ogunbanjo, urged telecom operators to grant subscribers more time to comply with the directive while encouraging Nigerians to promptly link their SIM cards to NINs to avoid disruptions.