SIM-NIN: Telcos lose N76 billion in 22 days after the ban, leaving subscribers stranded

After the deadline for the verification process ended on March 31, the Federal Government asked telcos to ban outbound calls on all lines that had not linked their SIMs to NINs.

Telecommunication companies have lost about N75.78 billion, according to a report by The PUNCH, as subscribers struggle to link their National Identification Number to the Subscriber Identity Module, about 22 days after the Federal Government ordered telecom companies to stop allowing defaulting customers to make outgoing calls.

After the deadline for the verification process ended on March 31, the Federal Government asked telcos to ban outbound calls on all lines that had not linked their SIMs to NINs.

As a result, around 72.77 million active telecom consumers have been denied the ability to make calls on their SIM cards. For telecom firms, voice income is a significant source of revenue. MTN made N819.74 billion in voice income in 2021, while Airtel made N397.91 billion.

In 2020, the industry's average revenue per user was N1,420, according to the Nigerian Association of Telecommunications Companies. In 22 days, this equates to around N1,041.33 per subscriber.

Subscribers with limited lines can get them unrestricted once they link their SIMs to their NINs, according to the announcement announcing the decision.

Meanwhile, telecom sector sources claim that the procedure has not gone smoothly and that it is affecting telco income streams.

The verification exercise has become a huge headache for the operators and the Nigeria Identity Management Commission, according to a source in the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria.

The source said, “A lot of the issues we have are from the NIMC end. There is nothing anyone can do. If this problem is from the backend, it means every network subscriber is likely to be facing this challenge.

“One thing is for operators to regularise from their side. Another thing is for the NIMC to do their part. Sometimes it gets to them, and they have downtime and maybe server issues.”

According to the source, when subscribers submit their NIN for verification, it gets sent to the NIMC, which has to send feedback before the numbers can be unbarred. The source added, “So, after telcos accept the numbers and verify, we need to wait for feedback from the NIMC, this is where there is a problem.”

The President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, stated that the capacity for NIMC to accept uploads was not particularly adequate. He added that congestion in the past couple of days had aggravated the situation.

He said, “Subscribers are trying to link their lines, but they are still being barred. The capacity of the NIMC to accept the upload is not particularly adequate. Now, there are so many people who want to upload all their data so that the NIMC will verify.

“That is not happening because there is so much congestion right now. And unfortunately, the relevant ministry does not want to listen. They are still saying, through the NCC, that they are not going to extend it anymore. This is why we would be joining SERAP by end of this month in its suit against the government.”

Ogunbanjo further said that subscribers were paying as much as N10,000 to get their numbers verified within three to four days at NIMC centres.

He stated, “It is a problem. Go to the NIMC centres, it is a mess. Again, if your NIN and Number are verified within three to four days, you would have to pay N10,000. People are paying because they are frustrated.

“We are still appealing to the agencies to give at least another three-month extension. Let them unbar subscribers so that sanity can be restored to the centres. Another 90 days won’t make any difference, it would only give us time to regularise.”

Efforts to reach the Head, Corporate Communications at the Nigeria Identity Management Commission, Mr Kayode Adegoke, proved abortive.

Calls and WhatApp messages sent to him were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.

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