By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has disclosed that telecommunications companies (telcos) have the right to reassign SIM cards once they’re inactive for 180 days.
The industry’s regulator made this emphasis on the back of a recent unfortunate incident that happened to a Nigerian businessman, Mr Anthony Okolie, who was arrested by officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) for possessing a reassigned mobile number, which was earlier used by Miss Hanan Buhari, the last daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Okolie claimed he spent 10 weeks in the custody of the nation’s secret police. After his release, the businessman, who claimed he never used the SIM card, which he registered in his name after purchase, for fraud as alleged by the DSS, took the agency, Miss Buhari, and MTN Nigeria to court to demand N500 million damages.
The issue generated fears among Nigerians, who are now weary of reassigned SIM cards in circulation.
But the NCC has said telecommunication service providers have the power to reassign numbers that have not been inactive without consulting the user as long as they are not used within three months.
The agency said this authority is embedded in Section 70 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA 2003).
According to Mr Henry Nkemadu, the commission’s public affairs director, it has always been stipulated among the policy, and whatever changes need to be put in effect must be done appropriately.
“If we must change and extend the validity period of SIM card from 180 days, it has to be deliberated upon by all stakeholders and captured in the regulatory policy of the NCC,” he said.
The commission also clarified that although SIM cards are registered in the name of a subscriber, it is not something that can they can law claim of ownership to, even with the fact that it was registered in their names.
He, however, said it would not be economically viable for an operator to keep a dormant SIM card on its network, since it costs a lot of money to build and maintain telecoms infrastructure, including maintenance of every SIM card on the operators’ network.
Business Post understands that each network provider pays a procurement cost for each SIM card as well as recurrence cost for each SIM card that is registered to a subscriber, and as such, it not economically beneficial to retain any SIM card that is inactive on a network since it cost so much to maintain.
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