What you should know, as Nigeria lifts ban on sales of SIM cards

After four excruciating months for individuals and businesses having to bear the pains of not being able to purchase or replace SIM cards for personal or business uses, relief is now in sight as the National Communications Commission Thursday announced the lifting of ban on Sale and Activation of Sim Cards.

In December 2020, it came as a rude shock to people when the Federal Government placed an indefinite suspension on the sales and Registration of new SIMs. Already existing SIM owners subscribed to different Telco networks were mandated to link their National Identification Numbers (NIN ) to their Mobile numbers or face outright blocking.

This unsavoury embargo was received with mixed feelings. Businesses operating IoT/M2Ms could not expand services and individuals who lost their phones/SIMs could not get a replacement. Foreign nationals , expatriates and diasporans found it difficult to communicate in the period they travelled to Nigeria.

The deadline for Telcos to register and link over fifty million subscribers was first moved to February 9th. Months of slow pace of registration saw the deadline moved again to May 9th. Now, deadlines would not need to be extended anymore as the ban in itself has been lifted by the same body that placed the ban. What changed?

Announcing lifting of the ban , the spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Femi Adeluyi, pointed out that Nigeria now has a “Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration”, which is an improvement on the previous policy document clearly detailing” responsibility of developing the digital economy sector, including championing the NIN-SIM registration process”.

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What must Nigerians note?

• Issuance of new SIMs and other suspended activities will resume on Monday 19th April, 2020.

• The integration of all Sim Cards to NIN hasn’t been completed and the issued press release pleads for ” Citizens and legal residents are encouraged to bear with the government as the process has been developed in the best interest of the country”

• Nigeria now has a Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration.

• The Policy includes Guidelines on New SIM Acquisition and Activation, SIM Replacement, New SIM Activation for Corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), amongst others- and the possession of a National Identity number will be a prerequisite for each of these categories.

• A Telecoms Master will also be required for corporates requiring IoT/M2M activations.

•In the event that a data-only service is particular to individual use (eg home car tracking, WiFi, MiFi services, etc), the standard NIN registration process will be followed.

• The NIN can only be issued by the National Identity management Commission. The 11 digit NIN identifies you as a citizen of Nigeria or as a foreigner legally resident in Nigeria.

• The NIN can be used to link up to 7 Mobile numbers, yet it cannot be transferred from person to person.

• NIN can be got by first filling an online enrollment form, followed by visiting an approved centre to complete the registration process.

Generally, reversing the ban on sim card purchase and registration would be a delightful news to many Nigerians that have been waiting patiently to retrieve their phone numbers.

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It will also be welcome news to Telecommunication companies who have in the past months lost significant amount of revenue due to a sharp drop in subscribers.

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