The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given the Federal Government a 48-hour deadline to unblock millions of unregistered phone lines.
The ultimatum was issued via a statement published by the SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.
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 stated that the judgment is inconsistent and incompatible with the country’s international legal obligations to preserve, safeguard, promote, and facilitate economic and social rights, despite the fact that it will have a chilling impact on free expression of ideas and information.
It said that the ruling goes against the principles of the rule of law and democratic society.
“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.
“We would be grateful if the decision to block people from making calls on their SIMs is reversed within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest to ensure full compliance with human rights standards,” the statement added.
Recall that on Monday, April 4, 2022, the Federal Government authorized telecommunication providers in the country to prohibit all outgoing calls on unlinked lines.
Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMS) that have not yet been registered and linked to the National Identification Number (NIN) by users are referred to as unlinked lines.