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Nigeria orders all mobile users to be linked to national ID

A rushed privacy-invasive move.

The telecom regulator in Nigeria has ordered that all active mobile phone numbers be linked to national identity numbers. While the telecom companies are ready to comply, they feel the given deadline is too short, meaning millions of lines could be blocked.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) this week gave Nigerian mobile phone users until December 31 to register their phone numbers with their national ID numbers. In a statement on its website, the NCC warned failure to comply would result in phone lines being shut down.

MTN is the largest telecom operator in Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, closely followed by Airtel Africa and Globacom. These carriers are members of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCN), which supports the government’s plan. However, ATCN feels the deadline is too close.

“We feel it’s the right thing to do, but it has to be done the right way, so there is no disruption to the way of life of the citizens,” said the president of the lobby group, Ike Nnamani.

NCC data shows that Nigeria has about 196 million active mobile phone lines. However, according to the National Identity Management Commission, only 41.5 million people have ID numbers required to complete the registration of their lines.

In a similar move in 2015, the NCC fined MTN about $859 million (330 billion Naira) for refusing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards.

On Wednesday, Nigerian legislators passed a resolution recommending that the NCC extend the deadline by 10 weeks.

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