NCC extends SIM sale ban on MTN, Airtel, Glo

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has broken its silence over the ban it imposed on three telcos in the country earlier in the year. It said the ban it imposed on them for failing to meet key performance indicators (KPIs) has been extended. The regulator did not say why it was extended and for how long the extension will last.

Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, Dr Okwchukwu Itanyi, who spoke in Lagos at the weekend, said the regulatory agency will keep regulating the industry in a manner that will bring growth and consumer satisfaction.

NCC imposed a fine of N467million on three carriers-Airtel, MTN and Globacom. It further barred them from adding in new subscriber identity modules (SIMs) through the sale of sale and activation of new SIMs. Since the ban was imposed in February, it was expected to lapse last month but the NCC kept mute over the issue while the operators silently lick their wounds.

Speaking on the sideline of this year’s edition of CyberAfrica Awards Night held at Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja, Itanyi said instead of lifting the ban, the NCC has extended it.

He said: “The ban on the sale of new SIM cards is on. We have not lifted the ban. It was for a month and we extended it. We have not lifted that sanction. It is still on.”

When informed that the erring operators were already selling the SIM cards, he replied, “It is something that we will investigate and if any of them is found to have fallen short of our regulation, it is something we can sanction them for.”

Asked whether the fines considered by the subscribers as an insult considering the money they lose to operators’ inefficiency, Itanyi said it imposing fines is one way of registering the NCC’s disapproval to them on the standard of the services in the country.  

“Basically the fines are to put the operators on their toes. We are not happy with the standard of service they are giving to Nigerians. There are KPIs and whenever they fall short, we have to sanction them by imposing fines. The fine is meant to put them on notice; we are also talking to the operators because part of the problem is that their networks cannot carry the capacity to accommodate customers. We are trying to make sure that they improve their network,” the executive commissioner said.

On the two awards it won, Itanyi said they were dedicated to the subscribers who toil day and night to buy airtime on their mobile phones to promote the growth of the sector. He said the NCC will continue to show leadership and give the regulation that assure the growth of the industry and expedite action on the rapid deployment of broadband across the country.

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