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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari /AFP

World

Nigeria lifts four-month ban on new mobile subscriptions

LagosNigeria, April 16 – Nigeria will restart issuing new mobile subscriptions from next week, the government said, four months after it halted the process in an attempt to curb growing insecurity in the country.

Africa’s most populous nation is battling a surge in violence, including a jihadist insurgency in the northeast, banditry in the northwest and separatist tensions in the southeast.

Worried that that criminals and insurgents were using unregistered SIM cards, the authorities in December ordered telecoms firms to suspend issuing new mobile lines while companies carried out a registration of existing users.

Telecoms operators were also directed to block subscribers who failed to link their SIM cards to their national identity numbers.

In a statement late Thursday, Nigeria’s communications ministry said issuance of new mobile subscriptions would resume on Monday.

“The implementation of the policy will commence on Monday, 19th of April 2021. The issuance of new SIMs and other suspended activities will resume on the same date, as long as verification is done and the guidelines are fully adhered to,” it said.

There are nearly 200 million mobile phones in use in Nigeria — a statistical average of around one per person.

The government argues that registering the phones will help to tackle insecurity and build a unified database.

In 2015, Africa’s biggest wireless operator MTN was sanctioned after failing to disconnect 5.1 million subscribers in Nigeria, over concerns the lines were being used by Boko Haram insurgents.

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The company was initially fined 3.2 billion euros ($3.9 billion) but after negotiations, the punishment was reduced to 1.2 billion euros.

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