In December 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria proclaimed a ban on SIM sales and registration. The move was carried out by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), stating that it was necessary in order to allow for an audit of operators’ subscriber registration database.
Fast forward to April 2021, the ban is lifted even though the audit has not been completely done. The Federal Government announced the restart of the exercise from April 19, 2021. According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the ban was lifted after the approval of the Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration.
The revised policy maintains that the use of the National Identity Number (NIN) is mandatory for all SIM registrations in the country.
But the NCC claimed that the ban would be in place until the audit was completed. The commission vowed to clamp down on multiple SIM registrations and fraudulent sales.
As at the date the announcement of resumed SIM card sales was made, there was no indication that the audit has been completed.
Two possible reasons for this are pressure from Nigerians, telcos losing money, and the Pantami controversy. Various individuals and businesses alike aired their grievance while the suspension was on, which showed the negative effect of the ban on Nigerians.
In some cases, students couldn’t buy SIMs for UTME registration and business owners could not procure new SIMs for customer service agents and expatriates.
Another possible reason is that Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is at the center of a media controversy, which some said the lifting of the ban is a way to combat the press.
Also, mobile networks like MTN and Airtel lost over 8.4 million subscribers and an estimated N12 billion to the SIM registration ban. Mobile subscription has been falling each month since the ban.