In mid-December, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced the National Identification Number (NIN) SIM registration scheme, giving Nigerians a 2-week window to complete the process or risk total disconnection of their lines. It was also announced that any network operator or network service provider that refuses to disconnect any subscriber who’s NIN hasn’t been linked with their SIM could lose their operating license. 

However, following a push back from the general public and House of Representatives, NCC gave a three-week extension which ran from 30th December 2020 to 19th January 2021. This was shortly followed by yet another extension till February 9th 2021.

So far, the exhausting process of obtaining a NIN from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) centres has made it quite difficult for Nigerians to easily get their NIN and link it to their SIMs. In fact, the pressure weighs heavily on not only the subscribers who queue for hours but also the NIMC officials attending to an overwhelming crowd. Most importantly, while subscribers continue to wait in crowds at these centres, they are at high risk of contracting and spreading the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19). With the exception of network operators that have provided subscribers with shortcodes for linking their NINs, it would be wise to factor the pandemic so as to create a schedule that admits fewer people but ensures same-day registration.

The race to meet these unrealistic deadlines does nothing to ease the process, particularly with speculations that officials give priority to certain individuals, leaving others unattended even after spending the whole day.

Notwithstanding, there are many other challenges that could prevent a large number of Nigerians from meeting the deadline. Total disconnection will also mean that thousands or even millions would be cut off from their family, friends and business contacts there’s no telling what subsequent effect that could have on the economy. Lastly, if the government follows through with the current deadline, telecoms will lose a lot of subscribers. Thus, in addition to a practical deadline, actionable efforts and arrangements need to be in place to ensure a smooth registration process.

By David-Duke N. Ndukwu

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