Thousands of telecommunication subscribers nationwide seeking to retrieve their lost Subscriber Identity Module cards or acquire new lines temporarily have been left stranded, following a technical glitch in the National Identity Management Commission portal that has grounded SIM-related services.
The affected NIMC portal enables telecom firms, the Nigerian Immigration Service, banks and other organisations to verify the National Identity Number of their customers before attending to them, in line with the Federal Government’s directive.
Following the directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission for the inclusion of NIN in the requirements for all new and existing SIM cards, telecom firms are required to synchronise their SIM registration portals with the NIMC portal in order to verify the details of their subscribers.
Meanwhile, the downtime experienced over the past five days by the NIMC portal has made it almost impossible for telecom firms to sell new SIM cards or retrieve lost lines.
According to a source at MTN who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to speak on the matter, the downtime in the NIMC network which occurred late on Tuesday has brought SIM-related services to a halt.
Speaking on how the development might affect the company’s revenue, the official said, “We have registration stores (centres) that attend to hundreds of customers on a daily basis. In my service centre, we attend to not less than 200 customers in a day. We can’t really estimate the amount we are losing.
“Sometimes, after retrieving their lines, some customers can buy as much as N30,000 airtime. Some can buy as much as N5,000 airtime. So, any day we don’t do business, one service centre can lose up to hundreds of thousands of naira.”
When our correspondents visited some service centres of the telcos, officials and customers narrated their ordeals.
When one of our correspondents paid a visit to a Glo retail outlet in Lagos, a myriad of frustrated subscribers could be seen inside and outside the premises of the service centre.
Some of the subscribers told our correspondent that they had visited the outlet for days on end but they were not attended to due to the NIMC portal glitch.
In the same vein, subscribers were seen at an Airtel office lamenting their inability to retrieve their GSM lines despite repeated attempts to do so during the week.
A subscriber, who identified himself as Tochukwu, said, “This is my second time here and they have been saying the same thing, that they don’t have network. They’re saying it’s because of this NIN something. It’s quite disappointing because after today which is Saturday, I won’t have chance to do this again.”
A member of staff at the Airtel office, who did not want to be named, said the NIMC portal downtime had grounded SIM-related services of telcos across the country.
“You cannot get a new SIM until next week because there is no network. It’s not all network. It is this NIN something. It’s because we have to use your NIN to register the SIM. It affects all the telecommunications (companies),” he said.
As the problem lingered, it was gathered that the NIMC officials held a meeting with telcos and other stakeholders over the development.
It was learnt that NIMC advised telcos to temporarily revert to the vNIN platform until it is able to sort out its technical difficulties.
It said, “New registration and SIM swap without a prior verified NIN and linked to our Know Your Customer will not be allowed until full service is restored.
According to some telcos’ officials, there is a feeling of discontent among operators due to the technical readiness and bottlenecks that would be required to make the temporary switch to the vNIN.
It was gathered that the telcos had kicked against it when it was suggested initially.
It is understood that the vNIN, which involves generating tokens, is riddled with technical concerns which the telcos are not prepared to commit resources to, particularly given the fact that the switch to the vNIN platform will only be on a temporary basis until the NIMC server glitch is resolved.
Also, officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service told our correspondents on condition of anonymity that passport application process was delayed in some passport offices because the NIN verification process was stalled.
They said some passport capturing appointments might have to be rebooked over the development.
Also, top officials of some banks said the development affected account opening during the past week as applicants who had NIN as their only means of identification could not be attended to.
The President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said the association was aware of the NIMC server downtime and had been duly informed that the situation was being handled.
He said, “I learnt it’s a network issue. It’s something they’re looking at. I called two operators, especially the regulatory officials and they said they were working on it and that it would soon be restored. It’s rather unfortunate, but what do you do? I’m sure NCC knows about it.
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