Lost lines: How mobile telephone coys frustrate Nigerians

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telecom services
MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile are the major GSM providers in Nigeria

By Chukwudi Ekezie

Mobile telephone service providers are frustrating Nigerians wishing to replace their lost Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards, leading to some abandoning their numbers.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) found that persons wishing to reactivate their lost telephone numbers are required to go to court to swear to an affidavit attesting to their ownership of the lines.

In addition, such subscribers are expected to provide a means of identification namely, National Identity Card, International Passport, Driver’s Licence or Voter’s Card.

NAN further found that subscribers, previously registered with service providers, had their data swapped with those of unknown persons with their call histories also missing.

These developments have encouraged touting in the offices of the telephone companies.

Furthermore, the situation contradicts the guidelines of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), which they (companies) claim to be following.

According to NCC guidelines, the request for SIM replacement can be made by a subscriber.

“The SIM must have been registered in accordance with the Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations issued by the Commission.

“The subscriber requesting for the replacement must provide information about the three most frequently called numbers from that SIM, which must be verified by the Network Service Provider.

“The frequently called numbers must have been dialled at least five times over a 30-day period.

“Where the SIM to be replaced is a data SIM, the subscriber will be required to provide any two of the following — last recharge amount and date, name of internet bundle value activated and data allowance allocated and last three sites visited.”

In addition,“an affidavit signed by the subscriber and a passport photograph of the subscriber where the replacement is to be done by a proxy, details of the last recharge on the SIM and details of the last paid invoice for post-paid subscribers.’’

Meanwhile, a Glo customer who identified herself simply as Ms Sureya, said she had been trying to replace her lost number in the last one week, following which she patronised touts in front of Glo Office in Wuse II, Abuja.

Sureya said that although she reactivated the SIM, the line failed to work and as a result, she had to go to court to swear to an affidavit of ownership and produce an identity card.

She expressed the hope that she would succeed on Tuesday when she returned with the company’s requirement.

“The annoying thing about this is that they don’t take the affidavit. They only cite it and make a photocopy of the ID.’’

She also accused customer relations officers of the companies of being rude, pointing out that on Monday, while many customers were in the Glo office, an officer told them she would attend to them when she wanted.

Sureya also said that the courts were filled with people trying to replace their SIMs, adding:“I had to go to the court in Maitama twice to get the document.’’

She said that affected persons were required to pay for the court document at ASO Bank or HASSAL Micro-finance Bank.

Another customer, Mr Chidi Eke, who tried to recover a lost SIM by presenting the pack of the lost line, was denied the opportunity by a customer relations officer of Glo, who insisted he must produce an identification card.

At Airtel office in Wuse II, in addition to the scenario at Glo, NAN found that customers’ data were swapped and information about their lines missing.

Eke, who registered a SIM three years ago, was told that the number belonged to another person and that it had been abandoned over time in spite of the fact that he used it on Saturday evening.

The customer relations officer further said that the numbers he provided as frequently called numbers did not feature on the line.

Similarly, a security agent, who came to replace a lost line, in spite of fulfilling the identification requirements, was told that the photograph on the platform did not belong to him and that the line had been abandoned over time.

The agent said he had been in the process of replacing the line since last week and added that he might be forced to abandon the line.

Meanwhile, the halls of the service providers are filled daily by persons wishing to replace their lost lines.

NAN also found that the companies are issuing new lines much easier than replacing old ones.

While an old customer is required to provide an identification document, a new one is not necessarily required to do so.

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