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The Federal Government of Nigeria to Ban Phones

Nigeria's Coat of Arms — Google Arts & Culture

Give the government your details or lose your phones

Nigeria’s government has ordered telecoms firms to cut off millions of mobile users who have not linked their SIM cards to their biometric IDs.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has told the companies to block all SIM cards that are not linked to the National Identification Number (NIN) by 28 February, 2024.

MTN Nigeria, one of the biggest telcos in the country, has confirmed the move in a notice to its customers and partners, saying it is following an “industry-wide directive”.

The firm said it will also block any phone lines that are linked to NINs that have not been verified by 29 March or 15 April, depending on how many SIM cards are linked to each NIN.

MTN Nigeria has urged its subscribers to submit their NINs for verification as soon as possible and said it has boosted its teams and infrastructure to make the process easier for them.

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The decision could affect about 12 million mobile users, according to Business Day, based on the NCC’s figures from September. The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) will help to enforce the new directive.

The government has already banned over 70 million SIM cards that are not linked to the owner’s digital ID since April last year. But until now, those SIM cards could still receive calls and data. From 28 February, they will be completely cut off from all services.

The government claims that linking SIM cards to NINs will improve national security and prevent crime. The use of digital ID has increased in the country in recent years.

In Namibia, where a similar SIM registration exercise is taking place, authorities have faced backlash from privacy campaigners who want to stop the process over data protection concerns. They have warned that they will start blocking non-compliant SIM cards from 1 January.

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