Not too surprisingly perhaps, the Nigerian federal government’s call to operators to bar outgoing calls by subscribers that have yet to link their SIMs with their National Identity Numbers (NIN) has reportedly led to huge crowds at enrolment centres.
So far 125 million SIMs have been submitted for NIN linkage. However, if the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) estimate of 197.77 million active telecom subscribers as of February 2022 is true, over 72.77 million active subscribers will be affected by the government directive.
Over the past two years the deadline for registration has been extended multiple times. The policy, which aims to ensure that subscribers are captured in the National Data Base (NDB) of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is supported by over 15,000 NIN enrolment centres.
The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria has confirmed that its members are complying with the directive. Thus many subscribers have been unable to make calls since Tuesday. Local news sources say that this has in turn led not just to queues but also to – unverified – fears that some NIN agents may request bribes to speed up the process.
Operators nevertheless are also taking a hit from the directive, both because people with more than one SIM may abandon one or two but also because overall subscriber numbers will be hit.
This is not just a Nigerian issue. Kenyans are apparently scrambling to register their SIM cards before the deadline of 15 April, when unregistered SIM cards will be deleted as part of a government effort to combat crime and improve data accuracy. Long lines have been seen in a number of registration centres across the country.
This is the third registration drive following attempts in 2012 and 2018.