In a revealing turn of events, a staggering 2,559,745 mobile subscribers, constituting a fraction of the 222,571,568 active voice subscriptions, have opted for SIM swapping across various GSM networks from May 2013 to December 2022, as per the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) 2022 report.
The comprehensive 2022 Subscriber/Network Data Annual Report delves into porting activities among the major Mobile GSM networks, including MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile, during the aforementioned period.
According to the report, 9mobile leads the pack with the highest number of port-ins, boasting 676,944 subscribers. Airtel follows closely with 331,837 subscribers, trailed by Glo with 105,746 subscribers, and MTN with 181,301 subscribers.
Similarly, the analysis spanning from May 2013 to December 2022 unveiled that MTN witnessed the highest number of subscribers porting out, totaling 444,226. Airtel, Glo, and 9mobile recorded 351,422; 277,527; and 190,742 respectively during the same period.
In 2020, the federal government lifted the suspension order on the replacement and activation of old Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards. In 2021, it granted approval to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) for the establishment of dedicated SIM Swap Centres across the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria. Additionally, the government extended the tenure of NIN enrolment agent licenses for MNOs from one to five years.
As part of the initiative to bring SIM Swap Centres closer to Nigerians, MNOs with existing Service Centres were directed to upgrade them to a level qualifying as SIM Swap Centres. This move aimed to alleviate the challenges associated with the SIM Swap/Replacement process for citizens, regardless of their location.
Despite these measures, the NCC attributes the surge in Port-In activities primarily to the directive issued by the federal government in April 2021. The directive lifted the ban on the sale and registration of new SIMs, SIM swaps, and all porting activities following the conclusion of the Commission’s nationwide audit of the Subscriber Registration Database.
Meanwhile, SIM-SWAP agents have linked the surge in port-ins and port-outs to the altered structure at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). Notably, one of the requirements for SIM swapping is the provision of a virtual National Identification Number (VNIN) or NIN. An anonymous agent stated, “Most of the people that visit our office for SIM-SWAP are people who already have NIN. All we need to do is to confirm that their NIN is uploaded on NIMC database, and the rest of the process is seamless,” speaking to NATIONAL ECONOMY.