President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered that no subscriber should be blocked from telecom operators’ networks till February 9, 2021. Subscribers, who pleaded for further extension, would have had their lines blocked January 19, being the initial deadline for them to link their SIMs to their National Identity Number, NIN.
On December 15, 2020, the Federal Government declared that after December 30, 2020, all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies would be blocked.
It later extended the deadline following widespread opposition against the earlier announcement and gave three weeks’ extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020, to January 19, 2021. It also gave six weeks’ extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020, to February 9, 2021.
However, before the January deadline, many telephone users and organisations called for a further deadline extension or outright suspension of the NIN registration process due to the large number of people that are yet to get their NINs.
At the expiration of the January 19 deadline, Nigerians went into panic mode, following the consistent statements by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ibrahim Pantami that those who didn’t meet the deadline will be blocked.
Yesterday, the federal government yielded to the cry of the people by suspending the blockage of lines of the January 19 deadline defaulters to February 09, 2021. A statement by the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria ALTON, made available to Vanguard, confirmed that it is now official that nobody will be blocked from the networks till February 9, 2021.
The statement signed by the Chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo and Publicity Secretary Damian Udeh, said: “ALTON can confirm to our members that we have received formal confirmation from the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC that President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously approved the extension of the deadline for subscribers with NIN to link it to their SIM registration data from 19th January to 9th February 2021.
“We thank the President for giving us more time to deliver on this all-important assignment of creating a credible national identity database for the country. We are also grateful to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ibrahim Ali Pantami, for his commitment to enabling digital economy”.
ALTON also used the opportunity to charge all telecom subscribers who have a NIN to link it to their SIM cards through available channels as soon as possible to be able to utilize the extension period judiciously. Meanwhile, many subscribers who spoke to Vanguard immediately after the announcement commended the President but noted that even February 9, 2021, would not be enough time to get a sizeable number of Nigerians to comply with the deadline because things are yet to improve at overcrowded NIMC centres.