Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami

From Bello Wakili (Abuja)

Federal Government says there is no plan to lift the ban on new subscriber identification module (SIM) registration any time soon for security reasons.

It said when it comes to addressing the issue of security, the economy takes back stage, insisting that SIM registration carried out in the past compromised the system.

The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, stated this at the sixth edition of the ministerial briefing by the Presidential Media Team, at the presidential Villa, Abuja.

Dr Isa Pantami who said the ban on new sims remains in place for security reasons noted that in the past, sims registration process were compromised, hence it is used to commit crime.

“People used the biometrics of one person to register about 100 sims, after people are given money, this is even as some SIMs were improperly registered”.

Pantami also put the number of SIM card subscribers linked to NIN at over 150 million, adding however, that enrollment of NIN is 51 million, as at 31st March, 2021.

He explained that while 150 million completed registration the remainder have problems of improper registration.

The minister warned that those yet to obtain their NIN, risk seven or 14 years imprisonment as stipulated by the Nigerian Constitution.

According to him, obtaining a SIM card maybe optional but NIN is mandatory, citing section 27 of the NIMC Act of 2007, noted that it is a criminal offense in Nigeria to carry out business activities without first acquiring the NIN number.

“The NIMC Act clause 27 states that you need the NIN number for opening bank account, for insurance, land transactions , voters registration, Drivers Licenses, therefore it is an offence to transact any business activity without first having your NIN.”

Pantami also added that the number of enrollment Centre have doubled, while number of computers have been tripled.

He explained that NIN will determine the total number of Nigerians that have registered because of the unique number.

Pantami further noted that the cost of data provided by telecommunications companies has been halved since last year from about N1,200 per gigabyte to less than N500 now.

He, however, blamed some State Governors for the high cost of data production by inflating the charges telecommunication firms pay State governments for right of way in installing their cables.

“Some states charge as high as N60,000 per linear meter whereas it should not ordinarily be more than N145”, he said.

Pantami said he had engaged the Governors through the Nigeria Governors Forum and pleaded with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene in the matter stressed that if the anomaly is corrected fully, the GSM and telecom firms companies will produce even cheaper data.

Speaking on the performance of the ministry in 2020, the minister said if not for ICT sector, Nigeria would not have been able to exit recession occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated that within the period under review, the ICT sector grew more than 0.9% of the economy maintaining that the growth in the ICT was key to the successes recorded in the economy.