The Federal Government has disclosed that the current ban on registration of new subscriber identification module, commonly known as SIM, to Nigerians will stay in place for a while longer.
Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, disclosed this to State House Correspondents on Thursday during the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the Federal Government took the decision with the intent to protect Nigerians and make the country safe from insecurity.
According to him, when it comes to addressing the issue of security, the economy takes back stage, insisting that SIM registration carried out in the past compromised the system.
“The ban on new SIMs remains in place for security reasons. We know this ban is painful, but very necessary.
“In the past, SIM registration processes were compromised, most of the SIMs were improperly registered, hence we have most of the SIMs used to commit crimes in the country.
“So what we are doing now is matching all the SIM cards with NIN. This has become necessary for security purposes.
He said about 189 million SIMs have been registered in the country, explaining that 150 million, out of this number, are completed registration while the remainder have problems of improper registration.
He also warned that those yet to obtain their NIN, risk being fined, imprisoned, or a combination of both punishments, as stipulated by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act.
According to him, while obtaining a SIM card maybe optional, NIN is mandatory, citing section 27 of the NIMC Act of 2007. He noted that it is a criminal offence in Nigeria to carry out business activities without first acquiring the NIN.
“National identity is a law and it’s mandatory and for you to even conduct certain activities in this country without the number is an offence; for you to get voters’ card in Nigeria, based on section 27 of NIMC Act, it is an offence.
“For you to open a bank account without NIN is an offence. For you to pay tax is an offence, for you to collect pension is an offence, for you to enjoy any government service, without having NIN is an offence.
“Section 29 says if you do any of these in 27, without obtaining NIN, you have committed a crime that will lead to fines or imprisonment, or both of them,” he said.
Pantami also added that the number of enrollment centres have doubled; while number of computers have been tripled.
He explained that NIN will determine the total number of Nigerians that have registered because of the unique number.
He further noted that the cost of data provided by telecoms companies has been halved since last year from about N1,200 per gigabyte to less than N500 now.
He, however, blamed some state governors for the high cost of data by inflating the charges telecommunication firms pay State governments for right of way in installing their cables.
“Some states charge as high as N60,000 per linear meter whereas it should not ordinarily be more than N145,” he said.
Pantami said he had engaged the governors through the Nigeria Governors Forum and pleaded with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene in the matter; stressing that if the anomaly is corrected fully, the telecom firms will produce even cheaper data.
On the effect of digital economy on the nation’s economic sustenance, Pantami said it played an unparalleled role in pulling Nigeria out of recession in the last quarter of 2020, faster than had been projected by experts.
According to him, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has started reaping the benefits of taking the initiative to diversify the economy through ICT-based ventures, citing how the growth of broadband penetration since the advent of the administration, especially since 2019, had pushed ICT ahead of other sectors of the economy.
He said: “Under solid infrastructure, by the time the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board around 2015, broadband penetration in the country was not even up to 20 per cent. By 2019, it was 33per cent.