About 161.5 million mobile telephone lines may be blocked by December 30, 2020, if the Federal Government fails to extend the two-week deadline given to telecommunications operators to get the National Identity Numbers (NINs) of their subscribers, findings have shown.
MTN, GLO, Airtel, 9Mobile and other smaller telecom companies in the country were handed a stern order on Tuesday by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, to compulsorily demand for the NINs of their customers within two weeks.
Pantami gave the order at a meeting with CEOs of the agencies under the ministry after a meeting he had with them on Monday, a statement from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said.
Investigations have shown that more than 160m Nigerians in the urban and rural areas may not beat the two weeks deadline due to the slow nature of national identity registration.
Nigeria’s teledensity rose by 2.2 per cent from 104.4 per cent to 106.6 per cent in October, increasing the number of telecom subscribers to 203.5 million, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Teledensity is the number of telephone connections for every 100 individuals living within an area. It varies across nations, and between urban and rural areas within a country.
However, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was only able to register paltry 42m Nigerians in 10 years the enrolment exercise started.
Telecom industry experts and subscribers spoken to by Daily Trust on Wednesday said the FG’s directive was not realistic and would cut off many Nigerians from telecom networks because NIMC would not be able to register 160m phone users in two weeks.
A telecom industry expert and former president of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Engr Olusola Teniola, said it would be difficult for NIMC to carry out the registration in two weeks.
“The telcos will find it very difficult to achieve this with at least 28m Nigerians without NINs and NIMC unable to provide such within that period to beat the deadline. It is very apparent that at the very least an extension within realistic timelines that NIMC can meet will have to be set,’’ Teniola said.
Another expert, Ugo Ekanem said the FG’s deadline was unrealistic.
“The question is, how NIMC will achieve over 150 million (perhaps less) enrollments in two weeks when it has the capacity of enrolling only 2.5 million monthly?” Ekanem queried.
He said the same puzzle goes for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). For instance, he said, operators like MTN, GLO, 9Mobile and Airtel have less than 20 offices in Abuja all together and this show they would not be able to manage the crowd within two weeks.
But the Director General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, had said in September this year that the commission was working with various agencies of government to synergize the digital identification.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Communications Commission, and many others are agencies we are working with to synergize the digital identification process,’’ he said at this year’s Digital Identity Day Celebration in Abuja.