By Akintola Omigbodun

The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, carried out the registration of Subscriber Identity Module, SIM, cards more than two years ago. I will henceforth refer to that exercise as the registration of GSM telephone numbers. At that time, one had the option of registering with the GSM operator responsible for one’s number or with a NCC-appointed contractor. I recall that before the exercise, the cost to the NCC of the exercise was a matter of much debate both inside and outside the National Assembly. I chose to register my two numbers, one from MTN and the other from Globacom, with the NCC-appointed contractor so I would undergo just one registration event.

Following on the conclusion of the registration in public, the NCC informed us from time to time that the task of compiling one list of GSM numbers from the different sources was in progress. The NCC never informed us that the compilation exercise had been completed.

Next, number portability is introduced as the key motivator in getting the GSM operators to improve the service given to the public. We are told that if one is not satisfied with the service from one operator, one could transfer his/her number to another operator. The NCC does not want to admit that if all of us go to one operator, the service provided by that operator would deteriorate.

Rather, the NCC should concentrate on the engineering of the systems put in place by the GSM operators and ensure that these systems can perform. Of course, number portability would be useful to someone moving from one area to another area when the person discovers that the service in the new area is virtually non-existent from the operator responsible for his number.

It would appear that the NCC wants to be able to inform us that the registration exercise has been concluded and the NCC has given the GSM operators up to 30 June 2013 to register all numbers in use. Next, I receive separate messages from MTN and Globacom indicating that my number is not registered with either of them and that I should ensure I am registered by 30 June otherwise I would be disconnected from service.

I recall that at the first registration, I registered my MTN and Globacom numbers at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos with the NCC-appointed contractor for the Lagos area, Chams Plc. So, I made contact with Chams Plc and my information is that the data obtained from the first registration had been delivered to the NCC in accordance with the terms of the contract and that they did not know how NCC utilised the data. It was a subtle way of letting me know that NCC had not used the data and it would appear that all the money spent on the first registration had been to no purpose.

It would appear that either Chams Plc had lost part or all the data obtained at Tafawa Balewa Square on the particular day I registered and so my details were not delivered to the NCC or the NCC had lost my data after its delivery by Chams Plc. From the large numbers of people showing up for a second registration at public places in Lagos, it would appear that the NCC has lost part or all of the data obtained from the registration exercise that took place more than two years ago.

However, the NCC should be able to obtain the data from its contractors and not put the public through the rigours of a second registration exercise. Of course, the NCC would not be able to approach its contractors if it had not paid them for work done.

I therefore made a second registration of my MTN number at the Ajasa Street, Lagos Island office of MTN Mobile Monie and my Globacom number at the Gloworld offices on Ikorodu Road at Fadeyi, Lagos. Both companies sent messages indicating that I had registered anew and that I had been granted some bonus time/amounts. For the record, none of the bonuses has been implemented.

I realised that for any registration exercise, a number of people would not be registered. I have come to the conclusion that if I am disconnected from service come July 1 or thereafter, I would obtain a new number from one of the other two GSM operators. NCC should however explain to us how the disconnection of about 30% of the numbers would improve service especially when many of the numbers are no longer in use.

At the second registration I asked why MTN should require information on my hobbies, someone in the office indicated that such information may indicate the difference when two people have exactly the same name. NCC should please get the GSM operators off our backs. The number of SMS messages sent to us as advertisements are an unnecessary distraction. The operators should be made to advertise how one can stop permanently the subscriptions to there unwanted adverts.

June 30 has come and gone and we are now made to understand that NCC is not manning the switches at the offices of the GSM operators. It is entirely at the discretion of the GSM operators to decide which number to disconnect and the GSM operators are asking for more time for the registration exercise.

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