The Nigerian government yesterday issued an order to the country’s mobile network operators to block SIM cards from making outgoing calls if they have not been updated with their owner’s National Identity Number (NIN). Following the passing of the registration deadline on 31 March, mobile phone users were given four extra days to link SIMs to their NIN before the final deadline which came into effect at midnight, 4 April. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami declared: ‘All telcos [must] strictly enforce the policy on all SIMs issued (existing and new) in Nigeria. Outgoing calls will subsequently be barred for telephone lines that have not complied with the NIN-SIM linkage policy … Subscribers of such lines are hereby advised to link their SIMs to their NINs before the telcos can lift the restriction on their lines. Affected individuals are hereby advised to register for their NINs at designated centres and thereafter link the NINs to their SIMs through the channels provided by [the National Identity Management Commission] NIMC and the telcos, including the NIMC mobile app.’
A joint statement issued with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) stated that to date ‘over 125 million SIMs have had their NINs submitted for immediate linkage, verification and authentication’ while the NIMC had issued over 78 million unique NINs. Nigerian newspapers including Leadership and the Independent reported that the call blocking order affected ‘around 73 million’ SIMs, based on a figure of 198 million total connections reported by the NCC for end-February.
The aim of the NIN and SIM registration exercise, which commenced in December 2020 and has been extended multiple times, is to improve security in the West African nation.