By Chinenye Anuforo

A subscriber group, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), has threatened court action against telecommunications operators over arbitrary disengagement of their lines, even when the deadline has not elapsed.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) earlier directed telco operators in Nigeria, including MTN, Airtel, and Globacom to implement full network barring on all phone lines for which subscribers had not submitted their NINs and those without verified NINs by February 28, 2024.

The NCC further said that NINs that had been submitted but not verified, such lines were to be barred on or before March 29, 2024, same as in cases where five or more lines are linked to an unverified NIN.

Also, where less than five lines are linked to an unverified NIN, such lines are to be barred on or before April 15, 2024.

However, before the stipulated deadline, some overzealous operators had begun barring affected subscribers’ lines.

Mr. Ugo Akaolisa said that he had done his NIN-SIM linkage but was surprised when he could no longer call or receive calls; only to go to customer care centre and was told that his line had been barred.

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A livid Akoaolisa expressed shock over the issue having painstakingly done his NIN-SIM registration/linkage earlier.

He, however, said that after redoing the linking at the customer service centre, his line was restored.

Reacting to the development, NATCOMS President, Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, said barring subscribers before the stipulated time was totally unacceptable. He advised the telcos to reverse their decision or risk court action by the group.

He said that a lot of the members affected by the decision of the telcos are business people, adding that the development makes them lose millions of naira every day. He said the group has been left with no option than to take legal action telcos.

Ogunbanjo said the NCC would meet key stakeholders in the sector this week, promising that the issue would be raised at the meeting.

While assuring of returning with positive news on the matter, he urged subscribers who have not linked their SIMs to do so to avoid barring their phone numbers at end of the grace window, even though the group is pushing for an extension of the deadline.

On his part, the President, Association of Telephone, Cable Tv and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS), Sina Bilesanmi, expressed shock that till date, about 12.9 million subscribers have not done their NIN-SIM linkage. He said this was not encouraging and urged subscribers to do their NIN-SIM linkage. However, he added that barring subscribers lines before the stipulated time was uncalled for and urged telcos to follow the NCC directives.