NCC orders unregistered SIM disconnection

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has insisted that it will not extend registration of subscriber identification module (SIM) cards beyond the Sunday 30 June deadline. It has therefore asked the operators to disconnect all unregistered SIMs from the network. The operators are reported to have started the phased disconnection of unregistered SIM cards.

The Director, Public Affairs of the NCC, Tony Ojobo, said the exercise has gone for about 27 months, adding that such a time was long enough for people to have done the registration of their SIMs.

“There shall be no extension to SIM card registration in the country. The NCC would not agree to such demand. SIM card registration has gone on for 27 months. If within this long period, any subscriber could not go and do his or her SIM registration, such a subscriber deserves to lose such line,” Ojobo said.

According to him, the operators did their best to place adverts in the national dailies, sent text messages and codes to their customers to sensitise them on the need to go out and register their SIM cards, adding that it fell on deaf ears.

Reminded that some of the operators did not supply short codes to enable their customers know the status of the SIM reg, he said any operator who did that stood to lose its 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 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,” Ojob said.

The operators, acting under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON) had, through a letter dated June 28 addressed to the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah, pleaded with the regulator to extend the exercise that commenced on March 28, 2011, when it was officially flagged-off by the EVC in Abuja.

Signed by its Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, the operators craved the regulator’s indulgence to extend the exercise by another three months, citing recent security challenges in some parts of the country that have  taken a toll on people’s movements and livelihood.

National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), also came asking for an extension. The President of the group, Deolu Ogunbanjo, argued that if the NCC acquiesced to the group’s demand, more subscribers would not lose their connection through no fault of their own.

However, Ojobo said there was still a window of opportunity for any subscriber who is disconnected.  He says while subscribers will lose their old lines, they could still buy new SIM cards, register them and continue to enjoy the dividend of the revolution. “The sale and registration of new SIMs is ongoing. What they will lose is that their old number which will no longer come back to the network again. When they buy new SIMs and register them, they could now send them to their friends and loved ones as their new telephone numbers,” he said.

Juwah had promised that on completion of the validation, harmonisation and scrubbing of the records of all registered SIM cards, operators would be authorised to disconnect unregistered SIM cards from the networks.

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