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Nigeria’s NCC threaten telcos with licence withdrawal over SIM cards

By , Africa editor
Nigeria , 17 Dec 2020

Mobile carriers in Nigeria face punitive punishment, including withdrawal of operating licences from the Nigerian government, if they fail to register subscribers and submit updated SIM registration record to authorities by the end of December.

A week ago, the Nigerian government directed the country’s mobile network operators to suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM cards.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it wanted to carry out an audit exercise to verify and ensure compliance by mobile network operator (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.

The move is expected to impact SA’s MTN, Africa’s leading telecoms company, and other operators such Airtel and Globacom.

This week, in a strong-worded statement, the NCC said violations of this directive will be met by “stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating licence”.

The NCC added that at a meeting with operators this week, “the need to consolidate the achievements of last year’s SIM registration audit and improve the performance and sanity of the sector was exhaustively discussed and all stakeholders agreed that urgent drastic measures have now become inevitable to improve the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process”.

The parties affirmed government’s December 9 directive to totally suspend registration of SIMs by all operators.

Furthermore, the NCC said operators are to require all their subscribers to provide valid national identification number (NIN) to update SIM registration records.

“The submission of NIN by subscribers will take place within two weeks (from today December 16, 2020 and end by 30 December, 2020. After the deadline, all SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks,” said the NCC.

“Ministerial Task Force comprising the minister and all the CEOs (among others) as members is to monitor compliance by all networks. Violations of this directive will be met by stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating license.”

The Nigerian regulator has in the past severely punished MNOs that have failed to follow the SIM registration exercise.

In 2015, the NCC suspended all regulatory services to MTN Nigeria until the South African telco paid a fine of $5.2 billion (R71 billion) in connection with unregistered SIM cards.

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