Breather for MTN, others as Nigeria gives telecoms more time to register mobile users

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  • Earlier this month, it was announced that telecoms operators would have until 30 December to block unregistered subscribers. 
  • Now, people with a national ID number have until 19 January to send their number to mobile operators, and people without a national ID number have until 9 February to get one and link their phones to it. 
  • There are nearly 200 mobile phones in Nigeria. 

Nigeria extended a deadline for telecoms operators to register mobile phone users, amid concerns that unregistered SIM cards are being used by criminals and insurgents, the government said.

As part of a drive to increase the use of ID cards, the Nigerian Communications Commission announced last week that telecoms operators would be given until December 30 to block subscribers who fail to link their mobile SIM cards with their national identity numbers.

With only about 20% of people in Africa's most populous nation carrying ID cards, the announcement was met with widespread anger across the country and industry analysts argued that the deadline was too short.

In a statement released on Monday, the ministry of communications and digital economy said the deadline was therefore being extended.

People with a valid national identification number have until January 19 to send the number to mobile operators to register their lines.

And people without a national identification number will have until February 9 to obtain one and link their mobile phones to it.

"The President appreciates Nigerians for their patience and commitment to update their identities," and "urges all stakeholders to take advantage of the extension to link their SIM card with their national identification number," the ministry statement said.

There are nearly 200 million mobile phones in use in Nigeria and the government registering them will help tackle insecurity and build a unified database.

In 2015, Africa's biggest wireless operator MTN was sanctioned after failing to disconnect 5.1 million subscribers in Nigeria, amid concerns the lines were being used by Boko Haram insurgents.

The company was initially fined $3.9 billion but after series of negotiations, the fine was reduced.

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