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    Wednesday, April 20, 2022

    Nigeria's Mass SIM Cancellation Hurts Small Businesses

    GSM users, whose lines have been deactivated over non-linkage of NIN and SIM, are lamenting the frustrations of not being able to make calls again, saying the Federal Government should have allowed people to do the linking at their pace, while it develops a verifiable database

    On 4 April, millions of Nigerians woke up to discover that they could no longer make voice calls with their SIM cards.

    The federal government ordered telecommunication companies operating in Nigeria to bar 72m unregistered accounts from making outgoing calls because the holders failed to link their National Identity Number (NIN) to the phone numbers.

    The NIN is a unique personal identification number that is mandatory for all citizens and residents over the age of 16 issued by the country’s National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

    “The Federal Government has directed all telcos to strictly enforce the policy on all SIMs issued (existing and new) in Nigeria,” said the NIMC on 4 April. “Outgoing calls will subsequently be barred for telephone lines that have not complied with the NIN-SIM linkage policy from the 4th of April, 2022.”

    The drive to implement this policy started in 2020 when communications minister Isa Pantami announced 30 December of that year as the deadline for the linkage. But the deadline has since been extended nine times to allow more Nigerians to enrol.

    The government insists that a database of all lines linked to NINs will help it track criminals and tackle insecurity. It says that criminal gangs use telephone lines to communicate and kidnapping gangs contact the families of their victims using unregistered telephone lines.

    Businesses take a hit

    As a result of the enforcement of the government’s directive by telecommunications companies, many small businesses, especially in rural areas, say they have been barred from calling active and potential clients.

    David Udeme owns a stall where he sews male clothes in Imo state, in Nigeria’s southeast. Since his line was barred from making calls due to the inability to link his NIN to his SIM, keeping in touch with customers has been difficult.

    “There are more than 10 customers who should bring work for me this week but I have not called them because my line is barred,” Udeme lamented. “Even when some try to call and I miss their calls, I can’t call them back.”

    Betting store operator Olugbode Adewale is also feeling the impact. Some of his active customers usually don’t visit his BetNaija shop in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria. Instead, he calls customers to receive instructions on games and stake amounts. It’s now a week since his line was barred, and his revenue has taken a plunge.

    “Today is Monday and I should have expected some good payment of commission but since I could not reach most of my customers during the week, I am expecting little to nothing,” he says.

    Olugbode says the federal government’s directive will impact his business and truncate his long-term growth plan. -Africa Business 

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