A police officer seat on a concrete at site of the
A police officer in Lagos, Nigeria, in mid-2020, with a cellphone advertisement in the background. (Photo by Olukayode Jaiyeola/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
  • MTN Nigeria has been verifying the identity of millions of its Nigerian clients over recent weeks.
  • It has to verify another 37 million in the next month as part of a clampdown, which means that no new SIM cards may be issued.
  • Still, the company managed to increase its service revenue to 1.3 trillion Naira (R51 billion).
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

MTN in Nigeria now has a little more than a month left to link the SIM cards of more than 37 million of its users with their ID numbers (NINs).

In December last month, the communications regulator ordered all mobile operators in that country to immediately halt the sale and activation of new SIM cards while it embarks on an industry-wide audit to ensure that mobile operators comply with the country’s new SIM card registration requirements.

It gave mobile operators a tight deadline of 31 December to register almost 200 million active cellphone numbers - and threatened to cut off users who aren't verified, and to strip mobile companies of their licences if they don't comply. The deadline was pushed out to February, and has now been postponed to 6 April.

Since then, MTN has registered millions of clients.

“To date, over 37.2 million subscribers have submitted their NINs, representing 48.7% of our subscribers base. We are working with [Nigeria's National Identity Management Commission or NIMC] to complete bulk verification of the NINs collected," Ferdi Moolman, CEO for MTN in Nigeria said.

"This requires improved integration with the NIMC database, the development of which has reached an advanced stage."

According to a Bloomberg report, Nigeria has 196 million active mobile numbers, while only between 40 million to 60 million Nigerians have identity numbers.

MTN was granted a licence to register Nigerians on the NIN database. It has 36 centres across the country and 15,000 enrolment devices, and is awaiting the arrival of more.

By the beginning of February, a cumulative 56.18 million NINs had been collected by the mobile network operators in Nigeria – of which MTN is the biggest.

MTN said the impact of the SIM activation process has been minimal during the fourth quarter.

Before the suspension of new SIM cards took effect in December, it was able to increase Nigerian mobile subscribers by 12.2 million to 76.5 million while increasing active data users by 7.4% to 32.6 million.

Service revenue soared to 1.3 trillion Nigerian Naira (R51 billion), up 14.7% in the quarter.

However, the company expects subscriber growth to be negatively impacted in the first quarter of 2021 if the suspension on new SIM issues remains in place.

“In the near-term, we expect the service revenue impact of the suspension to be moderate as usage is primarily driven by active SIMs in our base,” the company said.

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