Mobile network operators in Nigeria including Airtel and MTN have dismissed claims by subscribers that their SIM cards are being blocked before the deadline set for the linkage with the National Identity Number.
The Federal Government through the Nigerian Communication Commission had ordered telecommunications companies to deactivate telephone lines of subscribers who failed to link their phones to their National Identity Number.
Subscribers with NIN have until January 19 as deadline to link their NIN with their SIM cards while subscribers without NIN have until February 9 to do so.
But network subscribers have complained that telcos have started blocking their SIM cards before the deadlines announced by the government.
Consequently, large crowds resurfaced at the centres of the National Identity Management Commission nationwide after the New Year break with many NIN applicants jettisoning the appointment dates given to them by NIMC workers.
Speaking on the large crowds that resurfaced at NIMC offices after the Yuletide break, NIMC Regional Coordinator, Funmi Opesanwo, said, “A lot of applicants complained that their SIM (cards) have been blocked and that is why we are experiencing these large numbers. We are trying to manage the situation.”
But responding to inquiries by The PUNCH, the Senior Manager, External Relations, MTN Nigeria, Funso Aina, said the operator has not started blocking SIM cards not yet linked with NIN.
“It is not true that we have started blocking SIM cards not linked with NIN,” Aina said.
Also, Vice President, Corporate Communications & CSR, Airtel Nigeria, Emeka Oparah, told The PUNCH that no subscriber has been blocked yet.
“Airtel Nigeria is committed to ensuring total compliance with the directives of the Federal Government and the Nigerian Communications Commission on linking NIN with phone numbers. We have not blocked any customer and we will not block any customer at this point in line with the directives.”
Efforts to reach other mobile operators including Globacom and 9mobile were futile as of the time of filing this report.
Also, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, did not respond to calls by our correspondent while a text message sent to his line was also not replied to as of press time.
Meanwhile, following the large crowds that besiege its state offices in Lagos and Abuja, NIMC has released a list of over 50 NIN enrolment centres in the two cities.
According to NIMC Spokesman, Kayode Adegoke, the decentralization will help decongest the large gatherings at the state offices in the two cities as well as make the NIN registration process faster and easier for applicants.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had frowned at the large crowds at NIMC offices all over the country while it called on the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, to shut down some NIMC offices over non-adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
Many Nigerians have also accused the government of deliberately endangering the lives of the citizens amid the second wave of the pandemic by insisting on the NIN-SIM cards linkage within a time frame.
This newspaper had also reported that the Nigerian Communications Commission was awaiting the advice of the Federal Government as regards the deadlines as over 100 million telephone users are at the risk of being deactivated on January 19 and February 9.