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Monday, September 26, 2011

SIM card registration: Operators seek extension

Gbenga Adebayo, ALTON chairman
Barely 48 hours to the deadline for the on-going Subscriber identification Module (SIM) card registration in the country, telecom operators have requested for extension of the exercise between six and eight months.

The operators under the aegis of the Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) made this known at a press conference in Lagos, last Friday.

The initial deadline for the exercise which commenced on February this year is September 28, 2011, which is a six-month duration.

Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo said this has become imperative to ensure that majority of Nigerians register their SIMs.

Currently, he said, an estimated 50 per cent of the total subscriber-base has been registered.

“The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) wishes to inform you that the nationwide Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration exercise and the sale and activations of one way SIMs, which started on February 14th 2011, has so far seen the successful registration of over 50 percent of the total subscribers in the country,” he said.

According to him, the exercise has enabled telecom operators, with support from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to capture relevant biometric data of subscribers which include full names, age and date of birth, occupation, business, postal and residential addresses, finger prints, portrait photographs and alternative numbers.

He pointed out that with the successes recorded so far, Nigeria is well on its way to having a comprehensive data base of telecommunications subscribers.

“This data base which is highly secured to protect the identities of subscribers, would serve as a very valuable resource that would enhance security and national planning in the Nigeria,” he said.

He noted that telecom operators have continued to engage in aggressive marketing campaigns to enlighten the public on the need to register their SIMs.

“ALTON members have also rolled out various rewards and incentive schemes designed to encourage and attract subscribers to register their SIMs,” he declared, stressing that ALTON also acknowledges the pivotal role the NCC and its leadership have played in this exercise without which these successes would not have been recorded.

Adebayo, who was accompanied at the briefing by some members of the ALTON Executive Committee, including the publicity secretary, Mr. Damain Udeh, Mr. Gbenga Onakomaiya and Secretariat Administrator, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga among others, stated that whilst the exercise has recorded significant success up to now, “it must be mentioned that project has been beset with enormous challenges each one of which has had a significant impact on the outcome the exercise.”

These challenges, he highlighted to include but not limited to general logistics challenges like the ability of SIM registrations agents to access certain parts of the country, especially the hinterland and rural areas, the conduct of 2011 general elections in most parts of the country, the post elections violence, torrential rainfall and resultant devastating flooding in various parts of the country.

He said that there was a general lull in activities resulting from Christian lent and Muslim Ramadan during which a period of fasting and religious reflection was observed by millions of Nigerians.

Other challenges that negatively impacted on the progress of the exercise, he said, comprised of the heightened threats to security such as the spate of bombings across the country, ongoing violence and threat to lives in certain parts of the country and the general insecurity in many parts.

“These challenges have made it impossible to achieve a 100 per cent success rate within the period stipulated by the federal government,” he said.

Pointing out that even without these challenges, the deadline of the 28th of September 2011 is too short for a project as enormous as the SIM registration in Nigeria, a country with over 90 million telecoms subscribers.

Emphasising that in many other countries, especially on the continent, where the same exercise have been done, significant time were given to enable operators effectively conclude the exercise.

“For example, Malaysia with a total population of 27.5 million people took a total of 24 months to conclude the SIM registration exercise; while South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, took 18 months to register all subscribers. Other countries like Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Algeria and Ghana had their registrations exercises extended. Yet most of these countries have significantly lower population sizes and smaller landmasses than Nigeria,” Adebayo explained.

As the September 28 deadline, approaches, he said, ALTON wishes to call on the Federal Government and the NCC to extend the exercise to enable subscribers who are not registered to do so.

“The extension has become necessary in order to prevent a widespread panic and insecurity that will most likely occur if the estimated 50 per cent of subscribers that are not yet registered are excluded from the registration process,” he said.

In addition, he said, attempts to disconnect such a large number of subscribers would create last minute rush and consequently cripple the operators thereby causing a major systemic crisis.

As a result, ALTON, he said, made this call for an extension in the interest of public safety, national security, societal cohesion and the overall well being of the Nigerian subscribers.

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