Following the directive of the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, to operators of the Global System for Mobile, GSM, communication to deactivate all unregistered Subscriber Identity Modules, SIMs, subscribers to the country’s major telecommunication operator, MTN, have accused it of shoddy treatment in the course of re-registering their blocked lines.
At most MTN centres visited by Nigerian Pilot, the story is the same as the subscribers vented their anger over the disconnection of their SIM cards from the network even when they had previously registered it.
At the centres, subscribers occupied every available space sitting on anything within the premises, while the offices were full with queues which stretched outside the building.
A subscriber, who gave his name as Yemi, said the way and manner he was treated last Wednesday by officials of the network was demeaning, as the company virtually pushed them out of the gate under the pretence of closing for the day.
According to him, “I have been getting a message from MTN which reads: “Dear customer, please visit an MTN shop immediately with a valid photo ID to verify your SIM registration. Thank you for choosing MTN.
“So I took excuse from work at about 12:00pm and went to the MTN Egbeda walk in centre and I was baffled with the crowd, but still I decided to try my luck and collected a SIM registration update form and waited for my turn. But to my surprise at about 3:30pm the security men started pushing us to leave the premises that they were about closing for the day.
“I felt so bad because they didn’t consider that we also left our places of work to get this thing done so that they don’t disconnect us from the network. If not that this number is what most people call, I would have dropped it and look for another network for my calls.”
At about 11am on Friday when our correspondent got to the Opebi MTN office, subscribers were seen in groups murmuring over the unorganised manner in which the network was handling the registration process.
When an enquiry was made on the process involved in the registration, this correspondent was directed to the security office where a SIM registration update form no 620 was issued.
On further enquiry from the security official, he said the re-registration process closes between 3:00 or 3:30pm daily, while those busy should come back on Saturday by 10am when they open for business.
Speaking to our correspondent, a customer, who refused to give her name, said she took an excuse from her place of work and got to the MTN office at about 8:00am and since then she had been hanging around waiting for her turn since her line has been blocked.
A visit to NCC’s Facebook wall showed complaints by subscribers to the network, as Olumide Joe wrote: MTN Walk-in center, Alaba branch, as at 6:30am people are just suffering because of MTN’s inability to provide better services. Imagine wasting a full day at their office and at the end of the day, your line is barred from making or receiving call…. So annoying.
Hampo ‘Hamplus’ John Paul wrote: Imagine this nonsense!!! I duly registered my MTN line and I was sent a confirmation SMS, but three weeks ago, this same MTN sent me a flash SMS text that I should visit … with a valid ID card to complete my registration. Today, they said they will block my line. lol, who cares? I have whatsapp, glo, airtel and eltisalat even facebook, twitter and others for communication.
But my message is that MTN is just a joke, three weeks alone with a negligible number of agents when compared with the number of their customers. BVN gave us 1 year plus with registration points everywhere; NIMC since 2012 and still counting because the registration point is scantly spread.
Nwachukwu Michael Okey wrote: To whom it may concern. I just got off the phone with an MTN customer care representative. The man said their current witch hunting exercise (SIM re-registration) was authorised by NCC. As a matter of fact he said NCC wouldn’t even allow them use some of their outlets. Unless those accredited by them.
I reside in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. The mammoth crowd at the few “MTN designated outlets” can only be equated to a refugee camp. If what the MTN representative said is true, then I appeal to the executive vice chairman. Many of us cannot stand that unending queue, because of our busy work schedule. Please suspend the issue of disconnecting people’s line and allow the roadside vendors to assist MTN in this SIM registration. Thank you for your anticipated consideration.
Also, Ezeukwu Chiamaka wrote: Hello NCC. I have been getting SMS to go and verify my SIM which had been registered according to NCC’s first directive sometime in 2010. On getting to an MTN outlet closest to me with a photo ID, I saw a massive queue of people with different issues. For me who initially queued for almost a day to get my SIM registration done, I couldn’t believe that I have to go through this again. I am still haunted by the fact that I queued to obtain my voters’ card and queued to vote, for me to queue again for SIM verification which I had earlier queued to register? What is the way out for busy people? All Nigerians do not work for telecommunication companies. Thank you.
Explaining the rationale behind the re-registration, the NCC recently said that the SIM, which is the card issued by mobile phone operators, provides the individual user with the appropriate number recognised by that network.
The regulatory body explained that governments around the world have introduced mandatory registration of SIM cards as a tool to counter terrorism and support law enforcement efforts. As of July 2013, at least 80 countries globally including 37 on the African continent (Nigeria inclusive) have mandated the registration of SIM users.
According to NCC, “the SIM registration was aimed at creating a comprehensive database for the whole subscriber base in Nigeria. The use of pre-registered SIM cards is hampering the activities of security agencies and necessary measures had to be taken. The commission together with the office of the National Security Adviser and all network operators recently had a meeting regarding the use of pre-registered SIM cards. This is why all SIM cards that were not active for 48 hours after activation are now deactivated.
“It is important for the public to know that use of pre-registered SIM cards is a criminal offense and also puts the user of the SIM at risk of being arrested for someone else offense. If you are cut off (deactivated), it is not a total withdrawal.
Consumers are advised to go and register their biometrics and be re-activated.
“If no economic activity takes place within 90 days, the network provider has the right to withdraw the number and assign it to another user. Any new SIM card that activates immediately after purchase is a pre-registered SIM card. The sale and use of pre-registered SIMs is illegal and prosecutable by law. All network providers will be charged N200,000 on every SIM card that is pre-registered.”
However, most subscribers who spoke to Nigerian Pilot appealed for more time before they are disconnected from the network as it is difficult leaving their place of work to queue for a whole day, as well as the need to provide a conducive environment because the seats at the centres cannot accomodate the crowd.
An official of the network told Nigerian Pilot that complaints by subscribers were unfounded as they had sent SMS informing them of the re-registration before their lines were disconnected, adding that the network has been doing its best to serve their customers well and appealing for patience while the exercise lasts.
It would be recalled that NCC slammed MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat with a fine of N120. 4 million for failing to fully comply with the directive to deactivate pre-registered and defective Subscribers Identification Module cards from their various networks.

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