Nigeria’s SIM card sellers determined to trade
On 9 December Nigeria’s government ordered a ban on the sale and registration of new SIM cards. While authorities threatened to sanction any operator found contravening the directive, subscribers are still able to purchase SIM cards in various regions as the market responds tentatively to the latest government order.
In Ibadan, Abuja, Lagos and Niger states, ITWeb Africa confirmed that SIM cards for various networks are still on sale, especially through decentralised outlets.
At the intercity Iwo road motor park in Ibadan southwest Nigeria, Bayo Aboderin sells and registers SIM cards for major telecommunications networks, including MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile.
Aboderin said he heard about the government’s ban over the radio but that he had not received any direct instruction from his employer to stop selling the SIM cards.
“There are about twenty SIM card sellers in this park and it is fierce competition for us to make sales, which is why I don’t think any of us will just stop selling the cards we have because there is an instruction from someone in Abuja,” he told ITWeb Africa.
Nigeria’s capital Abuja is gradually adjusting to the NCC’s new directive.
In the Jabi area of the city, a SIM card retailer told ITWeb Africa on condition of anonymity that while the sale of SIM cards is still ongoing, registration has been suspended.
“We have been instructed to stop registering new SIM cards until further notice,” he said.
In Lagos, sellers at official retail outlets have also suspended the sale and registration of new SIM cards although Wasiu Babalola, a SIM card and airtime seller at Oshodi area told ITWeb Africa that the government’s action will only boost the sale of pre-registered SIM cards in the black market.
“What the government is doing will only boost black market sales. It is because of sudden change in policies like this that many SIM card sellers always have pre-registered lines for anyone that is in desperate need of a SIM to the extent of willing to pay more for it,” he said.
According to Babalola while there may be merit in the government’s decision, it is hurting people who rely on the sale of SIM cards to earn a living.
In a statement the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it has been directed by Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, to embark on another audit of the country’s subscriber registration database.
The exercise is aimed at verifying and ensuring compliance by MNOs with set quality standards and SIM card registration requirements.
“Accordingly, Mobile Network Operators (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 regulator stated.
The NCC has not stipulated a timeframe for the suspension and added that exemptions can be granted “when absolutely necessary in writing by the Commission following the government’s approval.”