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MTN disconnects millions from its network in Nigeria, as NIN-SIM linkage deadline expires



A significant number of MTN subscribers in Nigeria are facing service disruptions after the telecommunications company disconnected millions of lines that failed to meet the National Identity Number (NIN)-SIM card linkage deadline. This action follows repeated warnings issued by both the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and MTN itself, urging users to link their phone numbers with their NINs.

According to MTN’s Earning Report for the year ended December 31, 2023, released on Friday, over 4.2 million lines were deactivated from the network as of February 28th, the date mandated by the NCC for full compliance.

It also noted that 19 million lines on its network were currently being verified, adding that 4.3 million had been verified as of February.

MTN noted, “We also had approximately 4.2 million lines disconnected for which the subscribers did not submit their NIN. Several of these lines were low-value subscribers, minimising the revenue impact.

“We are actively engaging the authorities to accelerate the NIN verification process. We have also increased our engagement with the affected customers, providing various channels for verification to minimise service disruption.”

Background and Rationale

The NCC’s directive for mandatory NIN-SIM linkage stems from a national security initiative aimed at curbing criminal activities perpetrated through the use of anonymous phone lines. By linking phone numbers with a verified national identity, authorities hope to increase user accountability and facilitate the identification of individuals involved in criminal activities.

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Impact and Potential Repercussions

The disconnection of millions of lines has undoubtedly caused inconvenience for affected subscribers. While MTN has stated that many of the disconnected lines belonged to “low-value subscribers,” minimizing the financial impact on the company, the loss of service can be disruptive for both personal and professional communication.

Unresolved Issues and Future Developments

The situation raises questions regarding the accessibility of the NIN registration process and the potential for social exclusion it may create. Furthermore, concerns linger regarding the effectiveness of the NIN-SIM linkage in achieving its intended security goals.

MTN has indicated that they are working with authorities to streamline the NIN verification process and have also implemented various channels to facilitate verification for affected customers, aiming to minimize service disruption. It remains to be seen if these efforts will be sufficient to address the concerns of disconnected subscribers and the broader public.

The NCC’s directive and MTN’s subsequent actions highlight the evolving landscape of telecommunications regulation in Nigeria, with a focus on balancing security concerns with user convenience and inclusivity. It will be interesting to observe how this situation unfolds and the long-term impact it has on the Nigerian telecommunications industry.

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