NIGERIA: Operators Reluctant to Disconnect Unregistered SIMs

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As the deadline for the registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards expired Sunday, there are indications that telecoms operators are not comfortable with the directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that they should deactivate unregistered SIM cards on their networks at the end of the registration exercise.

Based on the directive from NCC, which is the telecoms regulatory body, it is expected that all telecoms operators will begin the deactivation Monday, but it appears that the operators are not keen at commencing the deactivation of unregistered SIM cards immediately, for reasons which among others, include the economic implication for the networks.

Our checks revealed that with the registration ending Sunday, the NCC has refused to extend the deadline, despite letters it received from various subscriber associations calling for additional three months extension.

However, it was gathered that the networks might be unwilling to commence immediate deactivation of unregistered SIM cards in accordance with the NCC’s directive for fear of huge revenue losses arising from about 27 million subscribers, who failed to meet the registration deadline that will be taken off the networks.

Some of the operators that spoke with THISDAY did not express any sign of willingness to commence deactivation immediately. Director, Brands and Marketing at Etisalat, Mr. Enitan Denloye, told us that the company would have to meet and take a position on the matter.

At Globacom, a top management official who preferred to be anonymous, spoke in a similar vein.

However, MTN decided to keep mum over the matter, as its General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs. Funmi Omogbenigun, declined to comment on the issue, via an email sent to her by THISDAY.

Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, told us in a telephone conversation that the commission had closed registration of SIM cards across networks Sunday and that its earlier directive to operators to commence deactivation of unregistered SIM cards remained unchanged.

“Where have the subscribers been and what have they been doing since March 2011 when NCC commenced SIM card registration in all the six geo-political zones of the country,” Ojobo queried.

It has been 27 months since NCC commenced SIM card registration across the country, but some subscribers have complained that they were yet to be duly registered even when they had initially registered their SIM cards.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, had on June 28, wrote the Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, asking for three months extension for SIM card registration, to enable every subscriber register their SIM cards.

Part of the letter, which was made available to THISDAY, read: “We write in respect of the SIM card registration exercise and the notice of instruction for mass disconnection of unregistered subscribers with effect from Sunday, 30th June 2013 to our members.

“We would like to draw your attention that although the SIM card registration has been ongoing for some time, subscribers have embraced the exercise more in the past few weeks leading to the 30th June, 2013 deadline.

“Also, in the light of the security situation in the country and the general logistic problem, it has been very difficult for the
subscribers, registration agents and our members (operators) to meet the 30th June, 2013 deadline. We hereby request for a three-month extension of the SIM card registration exercise in order for its overall success.”

Similarly, the President of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, had equally written NCC, asking for three months extension of the exercise.

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