An individual may no longer be able to own more than three phone lines going by a directive handed down to the Nigerian Communications Commission by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isah Pantami.
The directive was based on security considerations.
Pantami directed the NCC to revise the policy on SIM card registration and usage, according to a statement issued by his Technical Assistant on Information Technology, Dr Femi Adeluyi, in Abuja on Wednesday.
The revised policy would ensure that, henceforth, the National Identity Number (NIN) would become a compulsory requirement for registration of new SIM cards in the country.
The new policy would also put a cap on the number of mobile phone lines or SIM cards that could be obtained and registered by an individual.
Currently, many Nigerians have multiple mobile phone lines as they could buy as many as possible.
Pantami, in the directive issued to the NCC, suggested that an individual should not have more than three mobile phone lines or SIM cards.
While fresh registration of SIM card is to be accompanied with a subscriber’s NIN, all already registered SIM cards are to be updated with the identity number before December 1, 2020.
Similarly, foreigners are to use their passport and or visa numbers to register SIM cards.
Parts of the statement read, “The updated policy is expected to ensure that the National Identity Number becomes a prerequisite for Nigerians registering new SIM cards (while for foreigners, their passports and visas should be used), while already registered SIM cards are to be updated with NIN before December 1, 2020.
“There should be a maximum number of SIM cards that can be tied to a single individual, possibly a maximum of three.”
The NCC was equally directed to ensure that only fully accredited agents support the SIM card registration process without pre-registering SIM would be themselves, while the eventual registration should be done by the operators.
The commission was also ordered to ensure that, henceforth, no unregistered SIM is ever allowed on mobile networks.
According to the statement, the updated policy is expected to “ensure that subscribers can easily check the number of SIM cards registered to their name, along with the associated phone numbers and networks.”
The new policy would also make it mandatory for the mobile network operators to fortify their networks against cyberattacks.
Provisions of the new policy would further compel the telcos to adhere to the provisions of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, which guards against any breach of the personal data.
The new policy, to be formulated by the NCC in line with the minister’s directive, would, in the same vein, ensure that SIM cards that have been used to perpetrate crime are permanently deactivated.
The NCC was directed to provide the minister with progress reports on the implementation of the revised policy.
Pantami explained that the need for the revised policy was informed by reports from security agencies.
“The revision of the policy is based on the feedback received from the security agencies following the successful revalidation of improperly registered SIM cards in September 2019 and the blocking of those that failed to revalidate their SIMs,” the statement said.
The minister had in late 2019 declared that there were no more unregistered SIM cards in the country, following a directive issued to NCC to block about 9.2 million unregistered and pre-registered SIM cards.
He also directed the NCC to provide security agencies with the identity of any suspect linked to any mobile phone number that was used to commit crime.
Some of the minister’s previous interventions in the sector, such as a directive that sought to compel operators to reduce the cost of data, were challenged by some stakeholders, who argued that he was undermining the independence of the regulator.
However, in the statement that announced the directive for a new SIM card registration and use policy, the minister stressed that he was acting within his powers.
The statement said, “The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, has directed the NCC to revise the policy on SIM card registration and usage.
“This is in line with the powers of the minister as stated in section 25(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.”
The section said the minister had the power to notify the NCC, and, or, express his views on the general policy direction of the Federal Government in respect of the communications sector.