The Nigerian government doesn’t deliver on a lot of promises, but it seems to be doing something with NIN-SIM linkage.
Just to recap, the government came up with an idea in 2020 based on security and socio-economic reasons. Many kidnappers were making simple phone calls to demand ransom payments from their victims’ families, and they were getting away with it. To make that process harder, the government directed all mobile subscribers in Nigeria to link their National Identity Number (NIN) with their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.
How did Nigerians take it?
Millions of Nigerians rushed to link their NIN to their SIM cards to avoid getting banned by a government that has a Ph.D. in banning stuff. But there were thousands of other Nigerians who were not enthusiastic about it.
Some Nigerians were discouraged by the rush and queues that followed the directive, and others just didn’t trust the government to know their business. It didn’t help that it became public knowledge around the same time that the man behind the idea, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, had some past romance with terrorism.
But Buhari said the minister was an impressionable young man when he was doing PDA with terrorist ideas and all sins were forgiven. But Pantami was actually 34 at the time.
ALSO READ: 5 Nigerians Talk About Getting Their NIN
What did the government do?
Because the initial two-week deadline set by the government in December 2020 was an inconvenient joke, it was moved by more weeks. And then it was moved by more months and more months after that. In total, the government postponed the deadline eight different times spanning over 15 months.
The continuous postponements fueled public scorn that the government would never actually go through with banning millions of people and wreck one of Nigeria’s few profitable sectors. That was until April 4th 2022.
No NIN-SIM linkage, no outgoing calls
On April 4th 2022, the government directed telecoms companies to bar people who have failed to do NIN-SIM linkage from making outgoing calls. Over 73 million active mobile lines in Nigeria are affected by the ban.
Pantami asked those affected to link their NIN to their SIM cards to get the ban lifted.
We spoke to some of the Nigerians affected on how they’re dealing with the situation.
Chioma* — graphic designer in Enugu
The reason for not registering for NIN or linking it to my SIM is very simple — the system cannot be trusted. The idea of submitting my BVN as one of the criteria didn’t sit well with me. The same government asked for BVN registration for easy tracking of individuals but today, kidnappers and other criminal groups collect ransom via bank accounts. The government and its agencies are doing nothing about it.
I see the government and its agencies as jokers and a confused set of people. Why should I even pay to get NIN? Right now, I’m not feeling bad about my line being blocked, because there are alternative means of communication. My friends and family are calling in, and I can make outgoing calls with WhatsApp. I’m still not registering.
Adetoye* — student in Lagos
I tried to do the NIN-SIM linkage offline but it was looking stressful so I stopped trying. I didn’t get a chance to do it since then because I don’t go out often. The ban isn’t really affecting me because I don’t like phone calls like that. I mostly just stay online and chat. As long as I can still browse, I won’t link anything. What will be will be.
Daniel* — data analyst in Ogun State
Interestingly, I had linked my Airtel lines before the deadline. It was only my MTN lines that I didn’t link. My Airtel lines were barred but my MTN lines are still active as we speak. I have been unable to do anything work-related as I mostly use my Airtel SIM on my router. I had to buy data on my MTN to continue working.
I’ll wait for the system to self-correct. It’s not like I have a choice. I’d fancied my chances at filing a class action suit against NIMC, NCC, FG, and Airtel but we all know my chances at getting compensation are as real as pigs flying.
Linda* — student in Abuja
There’s just one reason I didn’t link my SIM to my NIN, abi is it NIN to SIM — I get coconut head and I no dey hear word. Also, I wanted to see what would really happen if I didn’t do it. E no too affect me. I was owing MTN ₦4500 that I had used up. Make dem no unblock am sef.
I’ll enjoy this peace of mind and continue using my router to browse and use my social media apps to make calls. When they’re tired, they’ll rest.
Jude* — student in Lagos
I did my NIN-SIM linkage in 2018 before the linkage drive even began in 2020. I was just surprised I couldn’t call since then because I did it alongside my first line. The ban isn’t affecting me because it’s only my second line that’s barred. My first line is still active and linked with my NIN. There’s nothing to do about it. Maybe GLO’s NIN activation was temporary or not working when I did it. I’ll try the code again later.