Nigeria Resumes Issuance of New Mobile Phone Lines

By Sahabi Abdul and Chuks Emele

Mobile-phone companies in Nigeria will resume issuance of new lines and replacement of lost ones today after the government lifted a ban imposed in December.

The stoppage was to allow for the linking of existing phone lines to national identity numbers as part of a strategy to contain rising crime, including kidnapping for ransom and digital fraud.

Under a new directive by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, all new phone lines and replacements will only be issued after verification of the national identity number. Special provisions were made for corporate organizations that need multiple lines for company use.

“The issuance of new SIMs and other suspended activities will resume, as long as verification is done and the guidelines are fully adhered to,” Femi Adeluyi, a spokesman for the ministry, said in a statement.

Isa Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy, had come under criticism for suspending issuance of SIM cards, an action considered inimical for an economy struggling to escape recession.

Mobile phones, apart from being communication tools, have become intimately integrated with the banking and payments system.

Nigeria had more than 196 million mobile-phone subscribers as at the end of last year, according to the latest data posted on the website of the Nigerian Communications Commission. More than a third, or 78 million, are on the network of MTN, whose South African parent company is the biggest mobile-phone company in Africa.