New SIM audit: The conundrum of quality registration in Nigeria

JUST last week, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to embark on another audit of the Subscriber Registration Database again.

The objective of the audit exercise, the government said, was to verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators 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.

Accordingly, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) were directed to immediately suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM cards until the audit exercise is concluded and when government issues new directive.

While this new directive may be due to the issue of insecurity in the country, many are wary of the obvious imperfections that have been the hallmark of such exercises in the past.

According to a subscriber, Sunday Okoro, government is never sincere with anything in Nigeria, which he said has been at the root of all the problems associated with SIM registration in the country/

He said: Right from the first attempt in 2007 when NCC announced the registration of SIM cards in the country to today, government has never got it right. Initially, NCC ordered the operators to do their own registrations independently; it also embarked on its own registration. The exercise ended in a fiasco with billions of Naira down the drain.

“The government has been beating around the bush for nothing and I am sure this current exercise will not achieve any modicum of success.”

A stakeholder in the telecoms industry, who craves anonymity, said the government has given too much latitude to the operators in the sales of SIM cards in the country. He said it is probably only in Nigeria that one can easily buy a SIM card by the road side.

This, he said, is a way to fraudulent practices by crooks, while attributing the unwholesome action to the competition to get more subscribers by the operators and by extension more money.

According to him, the directive notwithstanding, one can still buy a new SIM csard tomorrow if one so desires. He pointed out that the government should have made it cumbersome for subscribers to just throw away a SIM and go ahead to buy a new one while his or her particulars are attached to the one lost or discarded. He urged the government to look holistically into the issue of SIM registration in the country and stop the fire brigade approach.

Meanwhile,    telecommunications operators in Nigeria under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has urged subscribers to exercise patience in view of the Nigerian Communications Commission’s directive to all telecoms operators (telcos) to immediately suspend the sale and activation of new SIM cards on their respective networks to enable a smooth and seamless audit exercise.

In a statement signed by Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of ALTON, the association explained that the suspension is in line with the Federal Government’s desire to consolidate the achievement of the SIM Card registration exercise of September, 2019, as the NCC is to embark on another audit of the subscriber registration database again.

“This suspension is expected to be lifted upon the conclusion of the audit and normalcy will again return to the SIM acquisition and registration process by the NCC.

“ALTON regrets any inconveniences that this disruption will cause and seeks the understanding of Nigerian subscribers for a holistic alignment with Federal Government’s objectives in this regard.

“ALTON further assures the public of its members’ cooperation and compliance with this NCC and Federal Government’s directive, and will partner with them towards an expedited conclusion of the audit exercise,” the statement added.



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