Dr Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy issued the order stopping telecoms companies from selling new phone lines in Nigeria, the industry regulator says.
The Minister handed down the order suspending sales of new SIMs by mobile network operators (MNOs) that he also directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to enforce to allow for an audit of the country’s phone subscribers’ database.
Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director, Public Affairs, NCC, explains in a statement sent to Technology Times that the Minister’s order will be in force until the SIM Registration audit has been concluded and the government “has conveyed a new direction.
“Accordingly, MNOs are hereby directed to immediately suspend the sale, registration, and activation of new SIM Cards until the audit exercise is concluded, and Government has conveyed the new direction”, the NCC spokesman says.
The Minister’s directive means that Nigerians prospective phone subscribers hoping to join the nation’s connected family of over 200 million active lines will have to join a long queue until the embargo is lifted.
Nigeria has 207,954,737 active phone lines; 152,927,670 and 87,675,911 active internet and broadband subscriptions respectively, by October this year according to the telecoms regulator’s market information.
NCC says that telcos that fail to comply with the directive issued by the Minister “will be met with strict sanctions” that includes “the possibility of withdrawal of operating licence.”
Pantami’s order to the Nigerian telecoms industry to freeze sales, registration and activation of phone lines is coming during the yuletide when telcos carry out sales and loyaly promotions to woo new customers and retain existing ones.
NCC says that the Minister who has also threatened to withdraw the licence of non-complying telcos says the reason for the sales freeze is to conduct an audit of SIM Card Registration.
“The objective of the audit exercise is to verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM Card Registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Commission”, NCC says.
The Minister’s directive was handed down “in line with the Federal Government desire to consolidate the achievement of the SIM Card registration exercise of September, 2019”, while he has ordered NCC “to embark on another audit of the Subscriber Registration Database again.”
According to Adinde, “as the Minister has earlier directed in January, 2020, all citizens are urged to immediately secure Digital Identification from the National Identity Management Commission and submit it to the Network Operators.”