The Nigeria Communications Commission shrugs off pressures from telecommunications operators to further extend SIM card registration deadline given to them
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IN SPITE of pressures from telecom operators, under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, ALTON, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, said there is no going back on SIM card registration deadline. The ALTON is asking the NCC for a three-month extension of the exercise. But the regulatory agency has insisted that all the subscribers that failed to meet the deadline must be disconnected.
The regulatory agency said any telecom operator that failed to disconnect unregistered subscribers would face sanctions. Tony Ojobo, director of public affairs, NCC, told Realnews that no operator would go unpunished if it failed to comply with the directive to switch off all unregistered subscribers. “No extension of time has been given and we have given directives to all operators to disconnect all unregistered SIM cards. We are not going to sit down at the switches of the operators, but we know how to monitor them. If we establish any non-compliance, they will be sanctioned. For now, we don’t have the number of SIM cards that have been disconnected but we are monitoring the situation,” he said.
Ojobo said that any subscriber who could not register his or her SIM card for 27 months deserved to lose the line. He explained that there was a deeper interest in SIM card registration as unscrupulous elements were hiding under the anonymity they enjoyed with unregistered SIM cards to unleash terror on their fellow human beings. “The exercise was supposed to end in April but the operators pleaded for more time. It was granted. Now they are asking for more time. The NCC will not acquiesce to such a demand. SIM card registration has gone on for 27 months. If within these months, any subscriber could not go and do his or her SIM registration, such a subscriber deserves to lose such line.”
He noted that any operator who failed to provide short codes to its subscribers to enable them know their SIM card registration update must lose those subscribers. “What people don’t seem to understand is that there is a security dimension to SIM card registration. Therefore, it cannot continue to go on indefinitely. It has to end. The more you extend it, the more you create opportunity for unscrupulous elements to commit terror against the nation. The national security dimension is usually not played up because security matters are usually not discussed on the pages of national dailies. So, SIM card registration must end and those unregistered SIMs deactivated from the networks,” Ojobo said.
However, he said there is still a window of opportunity for any subscriber that falls victim of the disconnection. According to him, what the subscribers will lose is the old line while they could still buy new SIM cards, register them and continue to enjoy the dividend of the revolution.
Investigations at some of the telecom operators visited by Realnews have showed a reasonable degree of compliance with the NCC directives. Funsho Aina, MTN Nigeria external relations manager, said the company had fully complied with the NCC directives to disconnect unregistered subscribers. According to him, all subscribers that were not registered as at June 30, have been totally disconnected. He said that 13 percent of the MTN subscribers were not captured in the SIM card registration.
Osondu Nwokoro, director, special projects and regulatory affairs, Airtel Nigeria, said the company had complied with the NCC directive. “It is a directive from the telecommunications regulator and it has to be obeyed. Really, the subscribers who did not register will be hard-pressed,” he said.
However, most telecom operators’ devised means to encourage subscribers to register their SIM cards before the deadline ended on June 30. Most of the operators gave free recharge cards and promised other incentives to subscribers on their networks to get them to register their SIM cards. MTN is presently giving 1000 minutes worth of airtime to the subscribers that complete their SIM registration as incentives.