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Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami has claimed that incidents of terror such as banditry and kidnapping in the country have reduced significantly because of the ongoing enforcement of a policy that ensured citizens obtained a National Identification Number (NIN).
According to the minister, unregistered, and partial registered Subscriber Identification Module, popularly called (SIM) cards were being used to perpetrate crime in the country. While before his assumption as minister of the sector nobody knew the total number of unregistered sims.
The minister stated this on Thursday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja as part of successes recorded since assuming office, in 2019.
“When I was assigned to supervise the sector on 24, August 2019, unregistered, and partial registered sims were being used to perpetrate crime in the country. Nobody knew the total number of unregistered sims,” he said.
“Within less than 15 days in the office, we have engaged the NCC as a regulator. We have directed them to carry audit exercise to enable them come up with unregistered and partial registered sims. They came with around 9.4 million which is enough to populate another country. It was the first time we didn’t know the total of unregistered sims in the country.
“And we went further to direct NCC, to ensure that by 25th September 2019, that is only one month few days in office, I spent there to ensure that by end of September 2021, no sim that is not registered will be on our network. NCC as a regulator implemented that effectively.
“From end of September 2019, to 2020, you will discover that even kidnapping and banditry reduced to the barest minimum. It was a time that hardly can you spend one month or more without hearing about kidnapping.
“The more you come up with policies to make the system effective the more criminals will come up with another strategy to compromise the policies.”
He also claimed that before the introduction of the NIN registration policy, some Nigerians in collaboration with a handful of agents of telecommunication officials engaged in illegally preregistering sim cards which were sold to criminal gangs to perpetrate crime.
Recall that in December 2020, the Federal Government had declared that after December 30, 2020, all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies would be blocked.
It later extended the December 30, 2020 deadline following widespread opposition against the earlier announcement and gave three weeks’ extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020 to January 19, 2021.
It gave six weeks’ extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020 to February 9, 2021 and further issued an eight weeks extension on February 2, 2021 but many organisations had called for further deadline extension or outright suspension of the NIN registration process.
The last extension in May 4 however set the expiration date for the SIM-NIN linkage to June 30