*Subscribers commend President, but demand further extension
By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that no subscriber should be blocked from telecom operators’ networks till February 9.
This is as the Federal government, Wednesday, made it official that the deadline for subscribers to have their SIMs linked to their National Identity Numbers, NINs, has shifted from January 19 to February 9.
On December 15, 2020, the Federal Government declared that after December 30, 2020, all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies would be blocked.
It later extended the December 30, 2020 deadline following widespread opposition against the earlier announcement and gave three weeks’ extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020, to January 19, 2021.
It also gave six weeks’ extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020, to February 9, 2021.
However, before the January deadline, many telephone users and organisations called for a further deadline extension or outright suspension of the NIN registration process due to the large number of people that are yet to get their NINs.
At the expiration of the January 19 deadline, Nigerians went into panic mode, following the consistent statements by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ibrahim Pantami that those who didn’t meet the deadline will be blocked.
On Wednesday, the Federal Government yielded to the cry of the people by suspending the blockage of lines on January 19.
A statement by the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria ALTON, made available to Vanguard, confirmed that it is now official that nobody will be blocked from the networks till February 9.
The statement by the Chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, and Publicity Secretary, Damian Udeh, said: “ALTON can confirm to our members that we have received formal confirmation from the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, that President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously approved the extension of the deadline for subscribers with NIN to link it to their SIM registration data from January 19 to February 9.
They said: “We thank the President for giving us more time to deliver on this all-important assignment of creating a credible national identity database for the country.
“We are also grateful to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Ali Pantami, for his commitment to enabling digital economy.”
ALTON also used the opportunity charge all telecom subscribers who have a NIN to link it to their SIM cards through available channels as soon as possible to be able to utilise the extension period judiciously.
Meanwhile, many subscribers who spoke to Vanguard immediately after the announcement commended the President but noted that even February 9 would not be enough time to get a sizeable number of Nigerians to comply with the deadline because things are yet to improve in NIMC centres, which are over-crowded and are an ultimate danger to subscribers in this second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.