SIM deactivation: NCC to sanction telcos over non-compliance

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The telecoms sector regulator, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), says it will impose sanctions on Nigeria carriers over partial and non-compliance with its directive to deactivate all subscriber identity modules (SIMs) that didn’t conform to laid down procedures.

The NCC said from the about 38.78 million SIMs found wanting and shipped back to the telcos for correction, about 10.7 million have so far been barred.

Some of the SIMs ordered deactivated by the regulator are either unregistered, pre-registered or registered but had one defect or the other including poor finger prints, poor facial information and other biometric hiccups.

NCC’s Head, Compliance and Monitoring Unit, Efosa Idehen, who spoke after conducting an unscheduled monitoring exercise in Lagos, said on the expiration of the August 11 timeline given the telcos, the NCC has been monitoring compliance level.

Idehen recalled that in September 2014, it was discovered that the SIM data the telcos sent to the commission for harmonisation, contained some defective ones that were dispatched to the telcos for correction.

Giving a breakdown of the figure, he said some 18.6 million SIMs’ data were sent back to MTN; 7. 49 million sent to Airtel; 2.23 million to Globacom and 10.46 million to Etisalat.

While he accused the other operators of partial compliance, he carpeted MTN for failing to comply at all, lamenting that what the telco did instead of outright deactivation, was to put the affected subscribers on “Receive Calls Only”, which means they could only put a call through to another network.

 He said: “With this development, there was no compliance from MTN. During our visit to Airtel, it was discovered that the teleco had fully barred 2.3 million SIMs. At Globacom, 3.5 million lines have been barred also from the network. Globacom gave assurance of 24 hours to deactivate other lines found to be defective on their networks. Etisalat has barred 3.3 million and promised that within 24 hours, others found to be challenging will be removed totally from the networks.”

He said the directive given to the operators was that they should deactivate any line found to have incomplete registration and not allow them to receive calls only. He said the aim of the initiative was to encourage the affected subscribers to come and complete their registration.

Efosa said with the consultation with the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and other stakeholders in the industry, it was agreed that pre-registered SIMs and others found to be defective be deactivated. He warned that telcos will henceforth be expected to bring clean data to the NCC for harmonisation.

 He said there will be sanctions as stipulated by SIM Card Registration Code, Section 19 to 21, where it was stated that per SIM found defective on the network, erring operator will be made to pay N200, 000.

Head, SIM Card Registration at NCC, Mr. Bashir Idris, said the directive to deactivate unregistered SIM cards became necessary, following increasing crime rate perpetrated through mobile phones that have SIM cards fraudulently registered or unregistered.

The deactivation of SIM cards is also in line with the resolution reached at the meeting with NCC, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and industry stakeholders.

Proper registration means a subscriber’s facial pictures, properly captured, biometrics/finger prints, valid means of identification, address, among others, NCC explained.

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