From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The federal government says there is no plan to lift the ban on new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) registration any time soon, for security reasons, disclosing that SIM registrations carried out in the past had been compromised.
The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, stated this at the sixth edition of the ministerial briefing by the Presidential Media Team at Aso Villa, Abuja.
‘The ban on new SIMs remains in place for security reasons. We know this ban is painful but very necessary. In the past, SIM registration processes were compromised, most of the SIMs were improperly registered, hence we have most of the SIMs used to commit crimes in the country. So, what we are doing now is matching all the SIMs with NINs; this has become necessary for security purposes,’ the minister explained.
‘The ban may affect our economy, but when addressing the issue of security, the economy takes back stage.
‘People used the biometrics of one person to register about 100 SIMs after people are given money; this is even as some SIMs were improperly registered.
‘This is one of the most difficult decisions I have taken as a minister. It is a very painful decision, but we had to take it.’
Pantami put the number of SIM card subscribers linked to NINs at over 150 million, adding, however, that enrollment of NINs is 51 million as at March 31.
He explained that while 150 million have completed registration, the remainder have problems of improper registration.
He warned that those yet to obtain their NINs risk imprisonment from seven to 14 years as stipulated by the Nigerian Constitution.
According to him, while obtaining a SIM card may be optional, a NIN is mandatory, citing section 27 of the NIMC Act of 2007, and noting that it is a criminal offense in Nigeria to carry out business activities without first acquiring a NIN number.
‘The NIMC Act clause 27 states that you need the NIN number for opening bank account, for insurance, land transactions , voters registration, drivers licenses.
‘So, it is an offense to transact any business activity without first having your NIN,’ the minister said.
Pantami indicated that the number of enrollment centres have doubled whilst number of computers used for the process have tripled.
He explained that NINs will determine the total number of Nigerians that have registered because of the unique number.
Pantami further noted that the cost of data provided by telecommunication companies has been halved since last year from about N1,200 per gigabyte to leas than N500 today.
He blamed some state governors for the high cost of data production by inflating the charges telecommunication firms pay state governments for right-of-way in installing their cables.
‘Some states charge as high as N60,000 per linear meter, whereas it should not ordinarily be more than N145,’ he said.
Pantami said he had engaged the governors through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and pleaded with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene in the matter; stressing that if the anomaly is corrected fully, the GSM and telecom firms will provide even cheaper data.
Speaking on the performance of the ministry in 2020, the minister said, but for the ICT sector, Nigeria would not have been able to exit the recession occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated that within the period under review, the ICT sector grew more than 0.9% of the economy, suggesting that the growth in the sector was key to the successes recorded in the economy as a whole.