Nigeria suspends dozens of millions of phone numbers

The government of Nigeria ordered the suspension of millions of phone numbers from April 4. Nigerians are barred from calling with those numbers. For over a year, the population has been asked to link their SIM cards to their identity to reduce fraud.

Sim cards

The Federal Government has ordered telecommunication companies to block all outgoing calls from phone numbers that are not linked to a National Identity Number (NIN) from April 4.

Almost 73 million lines are now barred from calling at least temporarily. The decision follows a national directive that started in December 2020 to connect phone numbers with the owner’s identity in an effort to combat fraud.

The Nigerian Communications Commission has recorded 198 million active telephone subscribers in February 2022 while the country has about 210 million people. Almost everyone, including babies, would have at least one phone number.

Some would have several SIM cards and would use them for illegal activities: scams, fraud, kidnapping, etc. So the government required connecting phone numbers with the identity of owners to better track activities.

Ghana also started to implement a similar requirement last October. And like Ghana, the transition has not been without any bumps in the road in Nigeria.

The deadline to register the phone numbers has been postponed multiple times until March 31, 2022. But after a last extension for connecting the SIM card and the ID, authorities ordered telecom operators to suspend all lines as of April 4.

Subscribers affected by the restriction are for now still able to receive calls, send and receive text messages, and use the Internet but they are barred from calling other numbers.

When the government decided to suspend lines, 125 million SIMs had their National Identification Number submitted for linkage. It means that another 73 million haven’t and are now barred from making calls.

The National Identity Management Commission charged to make the connections has been criticized for its lack of efficiency and issues with its online platform.

For the telecom operators, MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9mobile, suspending lines can result in lost business but they are obliged to conform to the regulation. Other businesses relying on phone calls could be affected as well.

The National Association of Telecoms Subscribers advocated letting subscribers transition at their own pace.

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