The National Communication Commission (NCC) has taken a significant step to regulate the telecommunications industry. They have instructed telecom operators to bar lines that are not linked and verified with the National Identification Number (NIN).
This announcement came to light through a corporate notice filed by MTN Nigeria with the Nigerian Exchange Limited. The notice explicitly detailed the NCC’s directive, providing clarity on the stipulated deadlines for the comprehensive implementation of this crucial regulatory measure.
The directive emphasizes the need for aligning telecommunications services with the national identity verification framework. By linking lines to the NIN, the NCC aims to strengthen the industry’s security and accountability.
This development marks the second phase of line barring, surpassing the constraints enforced in December 2020. During the previous phase, customers were restricted to making calls only, while other services remained operational. However, the present directive is notably more comprehensive, leading to the disconnection of customers from the entirety of telecommunications services, including web browsing, calls, and text messages.
The goal is to plug any gaps and make sure the identity verification process is thorough, enhancing the overall security of telecom subscribers.
The Potential Impact on Telcos
Telecom operators faced a tough time during the first NIN-SIM linkage in December 2020, losing over 20 million subscriptions. They managed to bounce back, with more than 200 million active subscriptions by August. However, the new directive from the National Communication Commission (NCC) for the second phase of line barring might lead to another decline in subscribers. Millions of lines are at risk of restrictions or complete barring, similar to what happened before.
Strategies to Address the Issue
In response to the directive, telecom companies are intensifying efforts to enhance the capacity of their service outlets, aiming to streamline and expedite the SIM-NIN linkage process. The operators express commitment to ensuring subscribers comply with the NCC directive and are collaborating with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to accelerate the NIN verification process.
Telco companies are urging subscribers who have not yet linked their NIN to their lines to take immediate action by visiting the nearest outlet or using digital channels before the looming deadlines. Those without a NIN are encouraged to enroll at any of the NIMC’s centers nationwide.
Addressing Past Challenges
The necessity for the renewed line barring stems from past challenges during the initial aggressive measures, where citizens submitted incorrect or random eleven-digit numbers and used others’ NIN for linking. Under the current NCC directive, such SIMs will face barring as they do not carry valid user identity.
Deadline and Consequences
Subscribers are given until February 28, 2024, to link their lines. Those found with non-linked SIMs after this deadline will face the consequence of being blocked from accessing telecom services. The move aligns with the regulatory authority’s commitment to enhancing security and ensuring accurate user identification in the telecommunication sector.
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