April 10, 2022

SIM blockage: SERAP  faults FG’s directive, threatens court action

Telcos lost 12 million internet subscribers in 2021 – NCC

By Emmanuel Elebeke

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has faulted the recent directive by Federal government that outgoing call of telecommunications subscribers who have not linked their subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards to the National Identification Number (NIN) be blocked, and described the action  as infringement on fundamental human rights.

In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari signed by the Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the SERAP asked the Federal government to review the directive, insisting that blocking of subscribers from making calls undermines their ability to communicate freely and associate with others, as well as  infringing their rights to freedom of expression and family life, as well as socio-economic rights.

Recall that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy,  Prof. USDA Pantami had last week  directed the telecommunications companies operating in the country to bar subscribers whose SIM cards are not linked to the NIN from making calls.

“Blocking people from making calls undermines their ability to communicate freely and associate with others. It infringes their rights to freedom of expression and family life, as well as socio-economic rights,” SERAP said.

According to the organization, the decision to block people from making calls was inconsistent and incompatible with the country’s international legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and facilitate economic and social rights.

It posited that, “Access to telecommunications services is a condition sine qua non for the effective exercise of human rights. Therefore, the decision to block people from making calls is discriminatory and a travesty, adding that blocking the SIM cards from making calls would cause a wide variety of harms to economic activity, personal safety and disproportionately affect those on the margins of society.


For Oluwadare,  the development would directly hinder the ability of the government to achieve Goal 8 of the 2030 Agenda on the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

“Millions of Nigerians, including persons with disabilities, elderly citizens, persons living in remote areas, have been unable to capture their biometrics and obtain their National Identity Numbers (NINs) due to logistical challenges, administrative and bureaucratic burdens, as well as the persistent collapse of the national grid,” it pointed out.

Ever since the directive was issued, people have been trooping in their  hundreds to sim registration centres across the country to comply by the earlier directive of linking their sim cards.

Our investigation reveals that so many people have been blocked and could not make calls, send text messages or use the internet with their mobile telephone lines.

The situation is compounded by network glitches, equipment failure and other factors that are hindering the NIN enrolment process.

While, expressing its supports to government’s  efforts to tackle insecurity in the country, SERAP maintained insisted that it must be done in conformity with human rights.

It further urged the Federal Government to reverse the SIM blockage, warning that a legal action will be taken if the policy was not set aside.

 “We would be grateful if the decision to block people from making calls on their SIMs is reversed within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest to ensure full compliance with human rights standards.

“The rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of association, whether offline or online, promote the democratic ideal by allowing citizens to voice their concerns, challenge governmental institutions, and hold government accountable for its actions,$ it said.

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