A month later, faulty systems at NIMC, telecom operators prevent millions of phone users

Faulty and overwhelmed verification systems operated by telecommunications companies and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) blocked millions of phone lines, weeks after their owners submitted national identification details for reactivation.

The issue means millions of users have been unable to make calls since April 4 and many businesses have been affected. Customers say that the short codes, apps or web services provided by MTN, Airtel and Glo, for NIN verification, have been largely faulty and unresponsive.

Telecom companies blame NIMC for the slow and inefficient process, and the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said NIMC was overwhelmed and its systems could not handle a large number of requests.

Overwhelmed and faulty platforms not only caused reconnection delays, but also confusion.

An MTN user, who went by the name Lawrence, said he submitted his NIN in early 2021 and it was successfully verified and linked to his phone number, but his line was banned a year later. late. He was unable to resolve the problem using the instructions given by his service provider.

An Airtel user, Oji Ezeigbo, who owns a clothing business in Abuja, said he was also banned despite completing NIN-SIM bonding.

“It’s so frustrating, after linking my line I was still stuck making calls, this is my work line and I have to tell you that since the problem started I’ve lost a lot of customers. I woke up one morning to find I couldn’t make calls,” he said.

Promise Agu, who uses Glo, expressed similar frustration. He said he submitted his NIN but the line remained blocked two weeks later.

Salisu, who lives in Lugbe, Abuja, said he had visited the MTN office in Lugbe, Abuja more than 10 times but was unable to get his line unblocked.

An MTN office

“I have been going to MTN office here in Lugbe for more than 10 days now and I was given a *785# code to connect the line again,” said Salisu, who gave a name. “I tried this code several times and got the message that said thank you for providing the NIN but I still can’t make calls. All I can do now is receive calls .

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Defective system

On April 4, the federal government ordered telecommunications companies to ban phone lines that had not yet been connected to their NINs – after a lengthy registration process that saw the deadline extended 10 times. The government says the link is needed to help prosecute criminals, especially kidnappers who seize citizens and make calls for hefty ransoms.

the implementation of call bans started on a bumpy note, telephone companies prohibiting lines already connected to the NIN. Subscribers shared their frustration about how they realized they couldn’t make calls despite having their phone lines connected to their NINs. Some who hadn’t logged in continued to make calls.

More than 72 million rows were eventually barred from making calls, the government said.

The policy shut down millions of users and affected businesses. MTN, which has the largest subscriber base in the country, said it disconnected 19 million lines on April 4. As of April 25, only 1.2 million of the 8.7 million lines that had submitted NINs had been reconnected.

MTN said the policy could affect almost 10% of its income. The company said it earned 9% of its total revenue of N1.7 trillion naira in 2021 from outbound calls from blocked lines.

The process of linking phone lines to NINs requires users to register and obtain their national identity numbers, then submit them to their telephone companies using short codes or apps. Operators then check details from the central identity database operated by NIMC.

NIMC Office
NIMC Office

But since the start of the NIN policy in late 2020, telephone operators and the NIMC, which is the government agency responsible for implementing the policy, have struggled to process large amounts of requests.

NIMC reported repeated malfunctions that slowed or interrupted the verification process. NIMC website collapsed for almost 48 hours shortly after the first announcement after requests flooded the NIMC site. Its NIMC Managing Director, Aliyu Aziz, admitted that the agency was overwhelmed by traffic to its website.

The site went down for days in February 2022, which its management said was “due to maintenance by one of the Commission’s network service providers of its infrastructure”.

The agency did not comment. Its spokesperson, Kayode Adegoke, said inquiries should be sent to NCC.

NCC spokesperson Ikechukwu Adinde said PREMIUM TIMES subscribers may not be banned for several reasons despite submitting their ID numbers.

The NCC head office was used to illustrate the story.
The NCC head office was used to illustrate the story.

“It could be mismatched SIM and NIN details or wrong information, it could be different reasons,” he said.

But speaking to reporters on Thursday, NCC compliance officer Alkasim Umar said the NIMC lacked the infrastructure to keep up the volume of verification requests. He said the agency’s website was one of dozens close in February due to technical problems.

Networks too

Telephone companies also have their own challenges. Apart from letting customers line up endlessly at their service centers, their platforms which should receive user details barely work. A tool to receive NIN on MTN online works intermittently and sometimes fails.

More than a week ago, 9Mobile announced a platform that allows users to directly and personally unblock their lines. The goal of the initiative, however, is to allow users to sign up, enroll, and obtain NINs virtually. The system still requires verification which falls to NIMC.

READ ALSO: NIN Enforcement Starts On A Chaotic Note As Telecom Operators Ban Already-Linked Phone Lines

Glo’s public relations manager, Toni Kan, did not respond to calls and messages directed to him. Airtel and 9mobile spokespersons Bayagbon Ehrumu and Chineze Amafo also did not respond to requests for comment.

In a note to investors last week, MTN chief executive Karl Toriola said the company was engaging with NIMC “to expedite verification of submitted NINs”.

An official at Glo headquarters in Abuja who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media said that the use of incorrect information when registering SIM cards and NIN was one of the main reasons for the delay.

Sim cards used to illustrate the story.
Sim cards used to illustrate the story.

“If someone’s name is Mustapha but when they registered they used Musty. If you send it, the system is very sensitive because what he’s using isn’t the same as what was on his NIN so he won’t open it,” he said.

“Now some people got their SIM lines either from their husbands or brothers or sisters or they just got the line on the street. Now they said they should bind their NIN which they send when they come here and check, they say oh their SIM card was given to me by my brother.

“For most lines, when you check the reason why the line is still banned, you will see that it is because of the wrong information that was given before.

“But if you have no problem with wrong information and your line has been blocked, if you come for the link, we will overwrite what you have on the NIN and the line will be unblocked within 48 hours”, a- he added.

But when confronted with the details of those who are already linked and have accurate information, the official said the problem was also with the “network”.

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