*Deadline may be extended— NCC, ALTON
By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
The deadline set by the Federal Government for mobile subscribers to link their National Identification Numbers, NIN, with their mobile phone’s Subscriber Identity Module, SIM, cards, is tomorrow, Tuesday.
The deadline stipulates that those who failed to carry out the instruction will have their phones disconnected from the network pending when they would be able to do so.
This has created anxiety among subscribers who complained that the process of getting NIN alone was so strenuous, making the deadline difficult to achieve.
However, Vanguard reliably gathered that the deadline may be extended as relevant stakeholders met, on Monday, to review the deadline with a view to extending it. The extension would relieve subscribers of unnecessary tension.
The need for extension
A reliable source at the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, told Vanguard that although he could not officially confirm the extension, it was likely what would happen.
He said: “If you look at the way the NIN/SIM linkage regime has progressed, there is always an announcement when we attain a milestone.
“So, there is definitely going to be a statement after today (Monday). In fact, there is no need for subscribers to panic. There is every indication that the deadline will be moved,” he added.
Another source at the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators in Nigeria, ALTON, an umbrella body of all telecom operators in Nigeria, confirmed that government and relevant stakeholders were meeting over what would happen after the deadline tomorrow.
According to the source, “there’s definitely going to be an extension. The government itself should know that deactivating subscribers in the manner intended, after the deadline will be counterproductive.
“As we speak, a very serious meeting is going on between government and stakeholders to ensure the gains, made so far, in telecom development over the years are not wiped out through this single directive,” he said.
The Federal Government had, on December 15, 2020, through the NCC, issued a directive that telecom operators should inform all their subscribers to provide valid National Identification Number (NIN) to update SIM registration records.
The directive also made submission of NIN by subscribers compulsory within two weeks from December 16, 2020, to December 30, 2020, and that after the deadline, all SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks.
It claimed that a Ministerial Task Force comprising the minister and all the CEOs, among others, was to monitor compliance by all networks, because violations of the directive will be met by stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of the operating license of the operators.
The directive attracted public outcry and even a lawsuit from a non-governmental organisation, Paradigm Initiatives, PIN, who claimed that the directive was not only unlawful and unconstitutional.
PIN said same is not stipulated by law, but will likely interfere with its members’ rights to freedom of expression guaranteed under Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
The House of Representatives also joined in the call for an extension of the deadline, at least for the public to be properly sensitised.
Apparently due to these calls, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy extended the deadline for those who already have NINs to tomorrow and February 9 for those yet to register for NIN.
Although the NCC described as unfounded fears that after tomorrow, subscribers who did not meet the deadline could be blocked from the networks, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ibrahim Pantami, had at different fora, insisted that all stipulations against defaulters of the directive will be carried out to the letter.
So, baring extension of the deadline, the country will from tomorrow, witness a massive disconnection of telephone subscribers.