Experts and telecom industry’s stakeholders have expressed divergent opinions on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC’s) newly drafted regulations on Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) ownership in the country.
NCC, yesterday said it has drafted new stiffer regulations guiding SIM cards ownership in the country.
Though the commission is still asking for telecom stakeholders’ inputs into the proposed regulations, it has tentatively set 18 years as the age limit for anyone registering and owning a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card in the country.
This is contained in the draft copy of the modified Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations published on the commission’s website.
“‘Subscriber’ means a person not below the age of 18 years who subscribes to communications services by purchasing a subscription medium or entering into a subscription contract with a licensee”, the draft signed by the commission’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, said.
It also sets the “activation window” to a period of 60 days from the day a new SIM was purchased to when a subscriber is required to register with the relevant licensee (telecom operators) and during which, the new subscriber will be granted limited access to voice calls, message services and other range of services usually provided by mobile operators.
It also said the “Subscriber Registration Period” means the six months period within which subscribers must register their SIM cards.
But experts and the industry’s stakeholders have expressed divergent views on the proposed policy.
A Lagos-based cyber security expert, Mr Tokunboh Smith, said it is wrong to set a limit to SIM ownership in the country.
“This is very wrong; the whole world is now online communication. This is a country requesting that schools should go online and you are saying no student can obtain a SIM until 18 years. Those who made this law are not current. Should the students do their assignment by laptop or desktop only, which is very expensive to acquire,” Smith said.
Also, maintenance cost for a student is cheaper with a phone than a laptop or desktop, he added.
“If at all they are considering age limit, it should be 13 years, which I think is not even necessary”.
He said the proposed policy will lower GDP and lower returns on income from contributions by income earned by children under 18 years.
Tokunboh said, there will be loss of income to telecom operators, retrenchment of employees, thereby increasing ‘area boys’, and insecurity.
However, a former president of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Engr Olusola Teniola lauded the age limit, saying it aligns with age limits for obtaining driver’s licence, BVN and other government-controlled services where it is deemed an adult is applying to access such services.
“In the case of NIN, the age limit is placed at 16 years, presumably for JAMB requirements. Anyone below 18 years will require a parent’s consent to access telecom services by having access to a SIM registered under their parent’s or guardian’s name,” he said.
He said the economic impact would be immaterial, as current SIM registration requires a valid ID and that is the NIN number and it is presumed that operators are not registering minors onto their SIM database.
A telecom rights activist, Deolu Ogunbanjo, urged NCC to bring down the age limit to 15 years to fast-track Nigeria’s ICT education.