The House of Representatives has admitted that it was forced to summon the National Communications Commission, NCC, when unknown people were calling and sending messages to public office holders during the recent #EndSARS protests.

The House on Wednesday, stated that the identities of the owners of the telephone lines could not be determined, as the sim cards used were not registered.

The NCC had threatened that SIM cards not linked to NIN issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) would be blocked.

However, the House called for an extension of the deadline issued to subscribers from two weeks to 10 weeks.

The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, had moved a motion of urgent public importance at the plenary, to ask for more time for SIM card owners to provide their NIN.

Adopting the motion, the House resolved that the exercise should end on January 28, 2021 and not December 30, 2020, as initially set by the NCC.

Moving the motion, Elumelu disclosed how the House was involved in the process.

He said, “The instruction is based on what is happening in Nigeria, from what happened during #EndSARS when hoodlums were using SIM cards to abuse and terrorise people in (public) office and you could not track them.

“NCC was mandated to try as much as possible to ensure that all the service providers get all the SIM cards registered; and to first of all register with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), and then have a National Identification Number (NIN), and you will take it to the (telecoms) service providers and they will register it.”

The Federal Government had on Tuesday issued an ultimatum to all telecommunications operators in the country to block all SIM cards without NIN.

It also ordered the network operators to ask all their subscribers to provide valid NIN to update their records and suspend SIM registration.

These formed parts of the resolutions adopted for immediate implementation by all network operators at an urgent meeting of key stakeholders in the communications industry held in Abuja.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, noted in a statement that the meeting was convened on Monday by the Minister, Dr. Isa Pantami.

According to him, the meeting resolved that the submission of NIN by subscribers would take place between December 16 and 30, 2020.

The government stated that after the deadline, all SIMs without NINs should be blocked from the networks while a Ministerial Task Force comprising the minister and all the CEOs, among others, as members would monitor compliance by all networks.

It warned that violations of the directives by any network operator would be met with stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating licences.

There have also been concerns that the policy will send Nigerians scrambling to obtain NIN from NIMC locations across the country, which would inevitably spread the coronavirus across the country.

The announcement also coincided with expected mass travels that always characterise Yuletide in Nigeria. States have been announcing yet another round of shut downs amidst fears of a second COVID-19 wave.

Should the government carry out its threat, at least 163 million telephone lines may be blocked in the next two weeks, according to Peoples Gazette’s findings. It would be impossible to register as many lines in only two weeks.

In October, NIMC announced that it had enrolled and issued NIN to only 42 million Nigerians after more than a decade of launching the registration drive.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) estimated active phone lines in Nigeria at 205.25 million in its most-recent update released on November 2, 2020.


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