Nigeria says telecoms firms can resume new SIM card sales

ABUJA, April 16 (Reuters) - Nigeria has given the green light to telecoms firm operating in the country to resume selling new SIM cards from Monday, four months after it suspended them to check compliance with registration rules, the government said.

Nigeria’s communications ministry said the sale of new SIM cards can resume as long as telecommunications firms, including giants such as Airtel and MTN, link them with identity registration numbers.

The new policy will commence on Monday, the government said in a statement.

In December, the communications regulator directed all telecommunications firms to stop selling SIM cards while it audited their compliance with registration requirements.

Investors watch telecoms subscriber numbers closely and use them to estimate average revenue per user (ARPU), a key metrics for measuring profitability. South Africa’s MTN has the highest number of subscribers in Nigeria.

Nigeria created SIM card registration rules in an attempt to stop terrorists and criminals from using unregistered SIM cards.

Rising insecurity has plagued the country in recent months; earlier on Tuesday, suspected Islamists attacked the northeast Nigerian border town of Damasak, killing at least eight people and causing hundreds to flee to neighbouring Niger.

Other Nigerian carriers affected by the announcement include 9mobile and Globacom Ltd.

The government has also directed mobile phone companies to add valid identification numbers to every SIM card registered in the country. Unregistered SIM cards will be blocked. (Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha)