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63.97 million telephone lines disconnected amid SIM–NIN linkage

A total of 63.97 million lines were disconnected in one year amid the National Identity Number-Subscriber Identity Module data verification, data obtained from the Nigerian Communications Commission show.

The NCC data revealed that the total number of connected lines in the country fell by 21.79 per cent to 229,582,206 in October this year from 293,554,598 in October 2020.

Within the period under review, the number of connected lines was highest in August 2021 (328,114,538) and lowest in September 2021 (229,467,077).

The number of active lines fell from 207,578,237 in October 2020 to 191,618,839 in October 2021, a 7.69 per cent decrease (15,959,398).

According to the commission, 37,963,367 connected lines were inactive as of October 2021, down from 85,976,361 in the same month last year.

Telecommunication companies in the country have been losing subscribers since the Federal Government began the linking of NIN with SIM cards.

“Mobile subscribers declined by 7.6 million to 68.9 million, impacted by the regulatory restrictions on new SIM sales and activations,” MTN Nigeria Communications Plc had said in its half-year financial statements.

According to the company, it is actively in support of the government’s NIN enrolment programme.

Airtel, in its quarterly financial statements, had said, “New customer acquisitions were barred until significant progress had been made on linking the active customer base with verified NINs.

“Natural churn in the customer base led to a loss of two million active mobile customers in Nigeria in the first quarter of the year (following on from 2.5 million customer loss in the final quarter of the year to 31 March 2021).”

Industry experts have also blamed the fall in the number of lines on the SIM-NIN policy.

The Nigeria National Coordinator for the Alliance for Affordable Internet, Olusola Teniola, recently said “The impact of the SIM-NIN policy will slow down growth. The NIN requirement will slow down the ability to register SIMs legally, which will affect contribution to NIN, because not every Nigerian has NIN.”

In December 2020, the Federal Government banned the sale and registration of new SIM cards and gave a 30-day deadline for people to link their NIN with their SIM cards. The FG has since extended the exercise to the end of 2021.

When the government banned the sale and registration of SIM cards, the total number of connected lines was 300,042,650, and the total number of active lines was 204,228,678.

According to the government, the SIM-NIN policy is necessary to strengthen security in the country and trace suspects.

However, in September 2021, Zamfara State announced a ban on telecommunication service to block phone access so that criminals would not be able to communicate with one another.

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