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NIN-SIM Linkage: Telecom consumers set to sue FG, demand policy suspension

TELECOMMUNICATION subscribers, represented by the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, have announced that they will take the Federal Government to court in May in an attempt to temporarily lift the government’s prohibition on subscribers’ outgoing calls.

The Federal Government issued an order on Monday, April 4th, prohibiting telecom providers from making outgoing calls on any lines that have not yet linked their National Identification Number to the Subscriber Identity Module.

As a result, around 72.77 million active telecom consumers have been denied the ability to make calls on their SIM cards.

As a result, NATCOMS encouraged the Federal Government to extend the SIM-NIN policy’s implementation by three months. The group also given the government a month to put the prohibition into effect.

However, yesterday, NATCOM President Adeolu Ogunbanjo said that if the government does not temporarily reverse the ban, NATCOM will take the government to court by May.

According to him, the organization would join a lawsuit brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project against the federal government over the implementation of the NIN-SIM program.

He said, “We have said that if the Federal Government does not lift the ban, we would go to court. But SERAP said it had filed a document in the court. So, we are giving the government until the end of the month.

“NATCOM is saying that by end of the month, we will go to court. We are going to court to ensure the government unbans the lines and extends the deadline. SERAP has made the first move already, we would be joined in the suit.

“After the expiration of our deadline for the government to reconsider its decision, we would formally go to court, along with SERAP. By the first week in May, we are joining SERAP in the court.”

According to Ogunbanjo, subscribers who had linked their NIN to their SIMs previous to the directive were likewise barred.

He stated that the directive was unjust to subscribers and that its implementation had had an impact on their operations.

He added, “The present situation of things is so bad because a lot of people that have linked their NIN and SIM are also being blocked. These consumers now have to visit telecom service centres. This is unfortunate.

“When I spoke to one of the telcos, I was told that only ongoing calls were being blocked, as subscribers can still use data, WhatsApp, and text message services; which aligns with the directive of the ministry. However, several people use their lines for business, and this is having an effect on them.

“They can’t make call to their clients, this is a very terrible situation that is affecting businesses. These are part of the reasons we will join SERAP in the suit, so that the Federal Government can unban these lines. And we would request at least a minimum of three months extension of the exercise in the court.”

Ogunbanjo also alleged that racketeering had returned to NIMCC centers, claiming that staff now charge between N3,000 and N10,000 for NIN registrations.

He stated, “The NIMC centres are jampacked. Telecom consumers are suffering. By the time they go to the centres, they have to pay between N3,000 and N10,000, depending on when the subscriber wants to get the NIN.

“This is unfortunate. Yes, the government says it is free, but these acts are open. Let security agents wear muftis and go to the NIN centres, they would see for themselves that the NIN centre officials are extorting members of the public. The only place they are not exploiting subscribers is the telco centres, the mobile network operators.

“It is free there, but they are constrained as to how many subscribers they can attend to in a day. There is always a crowd there too. And sometimes, the network from the NIMC is slow. These are the situations subscribers are facing. This is unfortunate, and it is the reason we are requesting a deadline extension.”

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