The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has said that using Subscribers Identity Module or enjoying any government service without a National Identification Number will attract a 14 years jail term or fine.
The minister said this on Thursday while briefing the Press in Abuja on the NIN to SIM linking directive.
The development comes after a Court in Lagos banned the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy from blocking SIMs whose owners fail to meet up the April 6, 2021 deadline for linking SIMs to NIN.
The Ministry had through the Nigerian Communications Commission directed network operators to block all SIM cards not linked to NIN by April 9, 2021
Pantami said, “We only said submit your national identity number to the mobile operator, then citizens said we don’t have it, let’s go and obtain it, then the first question, why did you fail to obtain it until when the issue of SIM came up.
“National Identity is a law and it’s mandatory and for you to conduct certain activities without the number is an offence. For you to get a voters card in Nigeria based on Section 27 of NIMC Act, it is an offence.
“For you to open a bank account without a National Identity Number is an offence. For you to pay tax is an offence. For you to collect pension it is an offence.
“For you to enjoy any government service without having a National Identity Number is an offence. Section 29 says ‘if you do any of these in Sec 27 without obtaining National Identity, you have commited a crime that will lead to fine or imprisonment or both of them and this is 14 years note today.”
The minister said his duty to President Muhammadu Buhari was to ensure laws and policies of government are implemented.
He said, “With all sense of humility, Mr President has appointed me to ensure laws and policies of government are implemented. I am not a kind of person that will be appointed to sit down and continue drinking tea like this. It is impossible.
“Any responsibility given to me must be obeyed. This is my nature, when I feel that I can’t, I will clear the scene for someone to occupy the position. But so long as I am there, I must enforce the law.”
The minister said Nigerians will appreciate the effort put in place in years to come.
Pantami who said owning a SIM in the country is not mandatory, however insisted that NIN is mandatory for SIM users.
“NIN is mandatory, SIM is not mandatory, it is optional. If I say I will not use SIM in Nigeria, nobody will take me to court. It is optional, but this number is mandatory.
“So, why do we fail to comply to mandatory law until and unless we want to enjoy the privilege of using a SIM which is optional in our lives. However as the minister of communications, I will appreciate it if you continue using your SIM.”
On the number of NIN enrolment so far, the minister said, despite challenges, registrations have reached 150 million.
He said, “The complete enrollment so far is over 150 million not to talk of the pending ones because there are some with challenges.
“One of the major challenges we have encountered recently is in the process of verifying biometrice of the NIN number and that of SIM, you will discover NIMC has a template that you must capture ten fingers and in capturing you must ensure that you get the biometric right.
“But what we inherited in SIM registration is the heads of the fingers like this (upside down). People just thumbprint with heads. So, when you try to capture you will see it will not match. So, this is one of the major challenges.”