The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Federal Government to unblock unregistered lines.

Earlier, the Federal Government directed telecommunication companies in the country to bar all outgoing calls on unlinked lines from Monday, 4th April, 2022. Unlinked lines are Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMS) not yet registered and linked with the National Identification Number (NIN) by users.

Telecommunication companies in the country had been directed by the Federal Government to bar all SIM cards unlinked to their NIN

Reacting to the ban via a statement issued on Sunday, 10th April, 2022, SERAP asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to immediately reverse the apparently unlawful decision to block over 72 million active telecommunication subscribers from making calls on their SIMs”.

“Blocking people from making calls undermines their ability to communicate freely, and associate with others. It infringes their rights to freedom of expression and family life, as well as socio-economic rights”, SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said.

While noting that the decision will have a distressing effect, dissuading the free expression of ideas and information, SERAP argued that the move is inconsistent and incompatible with the country’s international legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and facilitate economic and social rights. The decision contradicts the tenets of the rule of law and democratic society, it said.

“Immediately reversing the decision would be in conformity with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations. Reversing the decision would also improve the confidence of the international community in human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria.

“The decision will cause a wide variety of harms to economic activity, and personal safety, and disproportionately affect those on the margins of society. This will directly hinder the ability of the government to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Goal 8 on the promotion of sustained, inclusive, sustainable economic growth.

“Millions of Nigerians including persons with disabilities, elderly citizens, persons living in remote areas have been unable to capture their biometrics, and obtain their National Identity Numbers [NINs] due to logistical challenges, administrative and bureaucratic burdens, as well as the persistent collapse of the national grid,” the statement added.

Story: Asma’u Sani