Breaking: FG Lifts Ban on Sale and Activation of Sim Cards From April 19

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has lifted its suspension on the sale and activation of new SIM Cards in the country from Monday, 19th of April 2021.

According to the statement from the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the suspended activities can resume as long as mandatory National Identification Number (NIN) verification is done and the guidelines of the Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration are fully adhered to.

The ministry stated that the new requirement is in line with the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, Section 23(a), which specifies the role of the Minister to include the formulation, determination and monitoring of the general policy for the communications sector.

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This new development comes months after the NCC ordered all operators to suspend the sale and registration of new SIM cards pending the completion of a thorough audit of the Subscribers Registration Database.

Although the integration of all Sim Cards to NIN hasn’t been completed, the ministry revealed that the development of the Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration led by the Minister, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has been completed. It added that implementation will commence on the 19th of April 2021. 

“The Guidelines in the Policy have been painstakingly developed and while they are thorough, it should be noted that they have been developed that way in National interest since the SIM is essentially a national resource.  Citizens and legal residents are encouraged to bear with the government as the process has been developed in the best interest of the country”.

Dr Femi Adeluyi, Technical Assistant (Information Technology) the Minister
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Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy

The Technical Assistant to the Minister on Information Technology, Dr Femi Adeluyi, explained that the minister in collaboration with stakeholders developed a policy that was was approved on the 4th of February 2020. This was followed by a Revised Policy developed in early March 2021.

He also revealed that Dr Pantami presented the Revised Policy to the President on Friday, 26th of March, 2021.

“Mr President made further improvements and endorsed it for implementation. Mr President also commended the Honourable Minister for his commitment in carrying out the responsibility of developing the digital economy sector, including championing the NIN-SIM registration process,” He concluded

The New policy

The Policy includes Guidelines on New SIM Acquisition and Activation, SIM Replacement, New SIM Activation for Corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), amongst others.

It also states that the possession of a National Identity number will be a prerequisite for each of these categories. For the Corporate registration, institutions will be required to appoint a Telecoms Master (at the minimum of an Executive Management level) to provide the operational Primary NIN representation. 

The Telecoms Master will also be responsible for ensuring that the users provide their NINs to serve as a Secondary identification, the statement says.

“For IoT/M2M activations, SIM security protocols would be implemented on the SIM profile to ensure that SIMs can only be used for point to point data services specific to the URL they are working with.  All other services will be barred.

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It added that in the event that a data-only service is particular to individual use (eg home car tracking, WiFi, MiFi services, etc), the standard NIN registration process will be followed.

And a Telecoms Master will also be required for corporates requiring IoT/M2M activations. The full details of the requirements for each class of service will be made available in due course.

In summary

The lifting of the ban on sim card purchase and registration will be welcome news to many Nigerians that have been waiting patiently to retrieve their phone numbers.

It will also be welcome news to Telcos who have lost significant amount amount of revenue due to drop in subscribers.

In general, significant progress has been made in the NIN registration process across the country.  The introduction of the new policy with clear guidelines could be a great divider to clear any problem like the standard for SIM biometric capture in the registration process.

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