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Fact-check: No Evidence Linking NIN With SIM Cards Is Targeted At Social Media Users

Claim: A Facebook user with the name, Bas Yahemeka Bijleveld, has claimed that the linkage of National Identity Numbers (NINs) with SIM cards is a plot by the Nigerian Government to track and target social media users who use certain keywords to stimulate genocide in the country easier.

Verdict: There is no evidence to prove the linkage of NIN with SIM cards is a plan to track social media users. According to available information, the policy as directed by the Federal Government is for security purposes and to ensure more controls over SIM ownership in Nigeria.

Full Text

A Facebook user with the name Bas Yahemeka Bijleveld on Dec. 24, posted that the Nigerian government was forcing Nigerians to link their NIN with SIM cards to make tracking of social media users easier. 

He added that the move would make it easy for the Federal Government to hire a company to compile a list of social media users who use some keywords to make targeted genocide easier. 

“The Nigerian government is now saying they will force mobile phone providers to switch off all SIM cards that are not linked to a National Identification Number,” he wrote.

“Why you should not do this?

“If you do, what becomes easy for the Nigerian government is to hire a company that shows a list of all citizens who write a certain key word on social media and in their phones and make lists per street who used those keywords, for instance everyone in the street who wrote Biafra. This is a tool that will make targeted genocide easier than ever before.”

As of December 27, the post had generated hundreds of reactions including 275 shares on Facebook.

He wrote this following the Federal government’s directive that all SIM owners in Nigeria must link their cards with their NINs or get blocked. 

Thousands of Nigerians have since trooped to NIN enrollment centres around the country to obtain their identification numbers.

The Federal Government extended the deadline for incorporating NIN with SIM cards by six weeks after several complaints.

Verification

According to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), the linkage of SIM cards is necessary as more controls over SIM-card ownership are needed to secure electronic transactions and curb crime as insecurity bites harder in the country.

“The revision of the policy is based on the feedback received from the security agencies following the successful revalidation of improperly registered SIM cards in September 2019 and the blocking of those that failed to revalidate their SIMs,” Dr Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy said as he directed the NCC to revise the registration policy.

The government added that the Boko Haram insurgency and kidnapping for ransom have been reinforced by telecom services.

There are over 207 million subscribers according to the latest NCC data for October 2020 but only 42 million Nigerians had a National Identification Number (NIN) as of September 2020. According to online data portal, Statista, Nigeria has a population of 206 million and about 100 million of them are adults.

According to an analyst, Yele Okeremi, the CEO of Precise Financial Systems, the linkage of NIN with SIM cards is meant to generate a single identity for phone users in Nigeria.

He said it would help to know who is doing what with phones and to detect cybercriminals. 

“The entire concept is to know who is doing what and where, so that it is not possible to go away with cyber crimes with multiple identities,” he said.

According to a statement released by the NCC, Pantami and all stakeholders agreed that the measure was necessary to improve the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process and consolidate the achievements of the SIM registration exercise of 2019.

“The urgent drastic measures have now become inevitable to improve the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process,” the statement said.

Conclusion

The claim that the Nigerian Government has directed linkage of NIN with SIM cards to target social media users and make genocide easy has no evidence to back it.

This fact-check is produced per HumAngle partnership with the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in Nigeria 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means without proper attribution to HumAngle, generally including the author's name, a link to the publication and a line of acknowledgement.

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