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Nigeria Blocks 73 Million Mobile Phones From Making Calls For Not Being Linked to ‘National Identity Number’

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Nigeria’s federal government ordered telecommunication companies to bar calls from phone numbers not yet linked to a National Identity Number (“NIN”), as well as unregistered SIM cards to be disconnected.

“Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa –  a region Bill Gates’ GAVI targeted in 2020 to introduce a “biometric identity platform,” Daily Expose explained.

On 4 April, Nigerian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, gave the order to deactivate all unlinked SIM cards with immediate effect, insisting that all telecoms subscribers must comply with the NIN-SIM linkage policy of the federal government. The recent order to bar all unlinked SIM cards came 16 months after the federal government gave the first order to deactivate all SIM cards not registered and linked to NIN.

Pantami said enrolment for NIN would be a continuous exercise and that NIN would henceforth be a precondition for service in telcos, banks, Nigerian Immigration Service, and several other government services.

The federal government applauded citizens for their “compliance” to register and link SIMs to NINs, saying 125 million SIMs have been submitted for linkage to NINs.

“As of date, over 125 million SIMs have had their NINs submitted for immediate linkage, verification and authentication. Similarly, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has issued over 78 million unique NINs to date,” the statement said.

Nigeria has an estimated population of 215.9 million and data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (“NCC”) showed that the number of cellphone or mobile phone subscribers was around 198 million as of February 2022.

That means 73 million SIMs had not been submitted for linkage and could not make outgoing calls because they have not been registered in the national digital identity database.

Reuters reported:

Nigeria is among dozens of African countries including Ghana, Egypt and Kenya with SIM registration laws that authorities say are necessary for security purposes, but digital rights experts here say increase surveillance and hurts privacy.

Nigeria has been rolling out 11-digit electronic national identity cards for almost a decade, which record an individual’s personal and biometric data, including fingerprints and photo.

The National Identity Number (NIN) is required to open a bank account, apply for a driver’s license, vote, get health insurance, and file tax returns.

In 2020, Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator said every active mobile phone number must be linked to the user’s NIN. It repeatedly extended the deadline until March 31 this year.

The government said outgoing calls were being barred from April 4 here from any mobile phone numbers that had not complied.

Millions of Nigerians have not registered their SIM cards, for reasons ranging from concerns over privacy here to problems reaching registration centres or not having a NIN.

However, the average number of SIMs linked to one NIN is about three to four.

Parrot Nigeria noted the following estimates for the number of unlinked users:

Telecommunication companies (telcos) and the Federal Government are at risk of losing an estimated N66.74bn to the barring of outgoing calls to 47 million Subscriber Identification Module cards that have not been linked to National Identification Numbers.

The Federal Government had on Monday ordered telcos to bar all outgoing calls of all SIM cards not yet linked with NIN effective April 4, 2022.

According to the government, over 125 million SIMs have had their NINs submitted for immediate linkage, verification and authentication.

However, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has issued just over 78 million unique NINs till date, making a deficit of about 47 million.

On March 31, 2022, the government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, reached a conclusion to suspend the extension for the SIM-NIN linkage, after extending the deadline six times.

Data from the NCC show that the number of subscribers was around 198 million as at February 2022. The average number of SIMs linked to one NIN is about three to four, Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of NCC, said in a report.

Officials have said the policy is needed to bolster security and identify criminals as the government battles insurgents and armed bandits who have kidnapped hundreds of people for ransom.

Daily Expose added:

The government has said that the 11-digit identification number is the foundation for a comprehensive digital ID system that will help to tackle insurgency by militants such as Boko Haram – as well as other crimes. NIN registration involves the recording of an individual’s demographic data and capturing their fingerprints, photo, and digital signature. The number is required for all transactions requiring identity verification, such as opening a bank account, applying for a driver’s licence, voting, obtaining health insurance, and filing tax returns.


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