03, 2021 / 4:43 PM / by CSL Research / Header Image Credit: Channels TV
Yesterday, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) through the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy announced the extension of the deadline for the ongoing National Identification Number (NIN) and Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) integration exercise. The new deadline for integrating the subscribers' details from the two databases is now 6 April 2021. This decision was necessitated by the difficulties in enrolling for the NIN amidst Nigeria's rising coronavirus cases.
Recall that the Ministry had earlier announced the integration exercise and stated a deadline of 31 December 2020, before moving the deadline to January 19 and February 9, 2021, following series of pushbacks from the public and the inefficient NIN enrolment procedures. The need to ensure that more people get enrolled, and avert the likelihood of disconnecting a teeming section of the population made the extension necessary.
We believe the decision of the commission to embark on this exercise is in response to the increasing cases of criminal activities like financial crimes, kidnapping, banditry, armed robberies and other crimes which leverage easy access to the national telecoms network. Mobile technology is increasingly being used in crime-fighting as mobile phones have call history, contacts, text messages, web browser history, location information, etc that provide critical information for crime fighters. Information contained in mobile phones can serve as a starting point for criminal investigations and provide subsequent leads. Digital forensics, a branch of science that deals with the recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices is becoming a popular discipline.
In our view, the new deadline may still not feasible given the difficulties encountered in enrolling for the National Identification Number. Many of the registration centers have a huge crowd daily and many applicants have to resume at the centers very early for many days before they are finally registered. Whilst this exercise may be a welcome development, the timing appears inopportune in our view considering the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country and the need to avoid further spread.
Considering the importance of the telecoms industry to the economy as a whole, the government needs to ensure that processes are put in place to ensure that exercises such as these are carried out efficiently at an appropriate time to avoid disruption of business processes of both operators and users. According to news reports, a total of 56.18m NINs have been collected by the mobile network operators and subscribers who do not integrate their NIN to their SIM by the stated deadline will have their lines blocked. This will come at a significant cost to telecom operators if a significant number of lines are blocked. Late last year, the government directed all mobile network operators to suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM cards until an audit exercise is completed.