NATCOMs Reminds Nigerians On NIN-SIM Linkage As June 30 Deadline Nears

TECH DIGEST – Fourteen days from now, the June 30 extended deadline handed to Nigerians by the Federal Government for National Identification Number (NIN) and Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards’ registration and linkage would expire.

As such, the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMs) has encouraged yet to be registered subscribers to do so within the space of time still available.

Already, feelers from the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy are not showing possible extension, after the exercise had been extended for about four times.

It is even more serious as a new policy on SIM cards has revealed that the Federal Government will order the deactivation of all unverified subscribers off the networks.

The document, titled: “Revised National Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration,” packaged by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, a part of it informed that there will be identification and deactivation of registered SIM cards with no NIN on the SIM database. The policy was recently unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.

The 45-page document has given a fillip to the readiness of the Federal Government to yank-off any registered SIM but with no NIN off the network.

Speaking with The Guardian, the President of NATCOMs, Chief Deolu Ogunbajo, urged Nigerians to use the remaining days to complete the exercise.

Ogunbajo, while appreciating the FG for the extensions, however, reminded the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy that the exercise should be made open and continuous, particularly for new SIMs.

According to him, by June 30, there should be an audit and review of the exercise since the commencement in December 2020. This, he said, would give proper assessment of exercise, “there will be opportunity to know where the challenges still lie.”

The NATCOMs boss stressed that part of the review should be that a subscriber did not have more than four SIMs per person.

On the challenges faced by students that require NIN for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) registration, Ogunbanjo appealed to JAMB and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to further make the process simpler for them.

Speaking on the issue raised by some members of the National Assembly, especially the Upper Legislative Chamber, as regards not making NIN compulsory for some activities in the country, including JAMB, where it was canvassed that the FG should review the implementation of the policy, a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, reminded the lawmakers that the NIMC is a body created by an Act of Parliament, that is “The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act No. 23 of 2007.”

He informed that the power to enact the law by the National Assembly was derived from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

According to him, the law said, “therefore every citizen of Nigeria must observe and respect requirements of all laws in Nigeria created by the National Assembly or those International laws that have been domesticated by Nigeria and other Regulations, Guidelines and Government Policies.

“This means that the NIMC Act is a validly recognised Nigerian law, binding on every person conducting business relating to the functions of NIMC or persons subjected to the jurisdiction of the NIMC (the employee, contractors, consultants, service providers, vendors, licensees, agents, Nigerian Citizens & all other people of other nationalities residing in Nigeria).”

Meanwhile, about 56 million Nigerians, as at May, now have NIN, according to NIMC. This can translate to over 190 million mobile numbers, since empirical evidence suggests that each unique NIN maps to three to four phone lines.

Findings by The Guardian showed that within the last five months of the exercise, about 16 million telephone lines have been lost, resulting in revenue losses to the telecoms operators and drop in taxes accruable to the FG.

In the new Revised National Identity Policy for SIM Card registration document, the NIMC was conferred with the power to ensure adherence to data protection policies, data backup and restoration plans, among others in the country.

The new document informed that the objectives of the data management process would include specifying data access requirements and protocols that will ensure secure access to the digital identity data; to develop fast and reliable access processes for the registration and verification exercise; to provide subscribers access to their own data, and provide an avenue for making corrections and updates where necessary.

Others are to create guidelines for data acquisition, processing and storage in line with Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) and other relevant regulatory instruments, and to protect the national digital identity data from fraudulent and exploitative usage by any entity involved in the capturing and storage of such data, and to develop and promote the use of digital identity data for digital services across all sectors of the digital economy.

The document noted that digital identity data comprising both national identity data from NIMC and NCC SIM card registration constitute a very important asset with great relevance to the digital economy.

It stressed that the digital identity data has potential for fast growth, with its sensitivity as it holds privacy information, a robust and secure data management and protection policy must be ensured. Particularly, a strong data loss prevention and recovery plan must be instituted so that in the event of data loss, data can be recovered and restored with minimal downtime and disruption to digital services.

According to it, data management is important during the registration process as it will prevent conflicts over data quality that can arise in subscribers’ effort to revalidate their registration details.