The Nigerian government has initiated a review of subscriber registration and ordered mobile operators, such as MTN, to suspend sale of new SIM cards.
In a statement on its website, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said in line with the government desire to consolidate the achievement of the SIM Card registration exercise of September, 2019, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), has directed the NCC to embark on another audit of the Subscriber Registration Database again.
“The objective of the audit exercise is to verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM Card Registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Commission,” the NCC said.
“Accordingly, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are hereby directed to immediately suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM Cards until the audit exercise is concluded, and Government has conveyed the new direction.”
In February 2016, MTN agreed to pay $250 million (R3.87 billion) to settle dispute
with the Nigerian authorities over the failure by the mobile phone giant to register subscribers.
MTN was given a December 31 2015 deadline to pay the R59 billion ($3.9 billion) fine for its failure to disconnect 5.2 million subscribers who did not register their SIM cards. The payment deadline has expired.
The NCC today warned MTN and its rivals that non-compliance with the directive to suspend sale of new SIM Cards will be met with strict sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating license.
“As the Minister has earlier directed in January, 2020, all citizens are urged to immediately secure Digital Identification from the National Identity Management Commission and submit it to the Network Operators.”
The company’s share price was down 6.17% to R65.51 by 14:40, pushing down its market value to R132 billion.