Telcos lose millions, customers’ verification affected, NIMC apologises as engineers battle crisis
Thousands of telecommunication subscribers nationwide seeking to retrieve their lost Subscriber Identity Module cards or acquire new lines temporarily have been left stranded, following a technical glitch in the National Identity Management Commission portal that has grounded SIM-related services.
The affected NIMC portal enables telecom firms, the Nigerian Immigration Service, banks and other organisations to verify the National Identity Number of their customers before attending to them, in line with the Federal Government’s directive.
Following the directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission for the inclusion of NIN in the requirements for all new and existing SIM cards, telecom firms are required to synchronise their SIM registration portals with the NIMC portal in order to verify the details of their subscribers.
Downtime enters sixth day, MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile suspend SIM replacement/acquisition
However, the downtime experienced over the past five days by the NIMC portal has made it almost impossible for telecom firms to sell new SIM cards or retrieve lost lines.
According to a source at MTN who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to speak on the matter, the downtime in the NIMC network which occurred late on Tuesday has brought SIM-related services to a halt.
The source said, “NIMC made it compulsory that before we can register a customer, we have to verify their NIN. The agency gave us a back route to its server. We connect to the server to verify NIN. When we verify, it will bring the record of the customer (the information the customer gave to NIMC while registering for NIN). We have to confirm the information the customer gave NIMC against what we have. There’s a way we connect to the NIMC server. It is that server that has been down since Wednesday.
“Before now, we didn’t need NIN to do this. We just use the customer’s valid ID card and SIM pack. If the customer does not have that, a sworn affidavit is okay. However, the introduction of NIN has changed that.”
Speaking on how the development might affect the company’s revenue, the official said, “We have registration stores (centres) that attend to hundreds of customers on a daily basis. In my service centre, we attend to not less than 200 customers in a day. We can’t really estimate the amount we are losing. Sometimes, after retrieving their lines, some customers can buy as much as N30,000 airtime. Some can buy as much as N5,000 airtime. So, any day we don’t do business, one service centre can lose up to hundreds of thousands of naira.”
When our correspondents visited some service centres of the telcos, officials and customers narrated their ordeals.
When one of our correspondents paid a visit to a Glo retail outlet in Lagos, a myriad of frustrated subscribers could be seen inside and outside the premises of the service centre.
Some of the subscribers told our correspondent that they had visited the outlet for days on end but they were not attended to due to the NIMC portal glitch.
“Seriously I don’t understand, and I called them to ask if everything was okay before I came here. I came the other day and they told me the same thing,” a disgruntled subscriber said after being told SIM-related services was yet to be restored due to the NIMC server glitch.
In a chat with one of our correspondents, a top official at a Glo retail outlet, who also pleaded anonymity, confirmed that with the new directive by the NCC, all telcos are compulsorily required to verify the NIN details of all subscribers before registering their new SIM cards.
“The problem is with the NIMC server. Their server is down; we can’t connect with them. We don’t know when it will be back. All the telecoms (companies) have network but because of NIN verification, we can’t work. It is a Federal Government directive: without NIN, we can’t do anything. Even if you want to buy SIM and register, without NIN, you can’t do it.”
In the same vein, subscribers were seen at an Airtel office lamenting their inability to retrieve their GSM lines despite repeated attempts to do so during the week.
A subscriber, who identified himself as Tochukwu, said, “This is my second time here and they have been saying the same thing, that they don’t have network. They’re saying it’s because of this NIN something. It’s quite disappointing because after today which is Saturday, I won’t have chance to do this again.”
A member of staff at the Airtel office, who did not want to be named, said the NIMC portal downtime had grounded SIM-related services of telcos across the country.
“You cannot get a new SIM until next week because there is no network. It’s not all network. It is this NIN something. It’s because we have to use your NIN to register the SIM. It affects all the telecommunications (companies),” he said.