Retrieving a lost SIM card shouldn’t be this difficult

If you have lost your SIM card, getting a replacement from your mobile network operator should be a fairly easy process, but here in Nigeria, it is more of a pain in the neck. In this article, I walk you through the process and also highlight frustrating parts of the procedure that need to be thrown in the dust bin.

If you have lost your SIM card, you will need to go to a customer care centre of your mobile network to get it replaced. I list below the requirements to get your lost or stolen SIM replaced.

What you need if you’ve lost your SIM card

  1. You need a  valid means of identification. This means your National ID card, Drivers License, International Passport, Voter’s Card, Trade Union ID, School ID.
  2. Proof of ownership of the lost SIM. In this case, you need your SIM Certificate, which is usually the SIM cardholder (it has some important details printed on it). In the absence of that, you will need a Police Report and Sworn Affidavit.

If this was all that Airtel, Glo, MTN and 9mobile asked for, all would be well. But on the SIM replacement form you are given to complete, you will find slots that request for outlandish information like:

  • the date of the last recharge you did on the line
  • the amount you recharged on that date
  • 5 numbers you call regularly with the line
  • 3 websites you visit regularly (for Internet SIM).

And this is where it stops making sense. It makes very little sense because no-one, perhaps compulsive people, keeps those sorts of records anywhere. And where your lost SIM card is a secondary line, it is even worse. Your recharges are spaced out and you likely use it for calls much less. Remembering those details is going to be a pain in the neck.

lost your SIM card
If you have lost your SIM card, getting a replacement should be easy

What of your biometric details?

NCC and the networks put all of us through hell to collect our biometrics, but when you walk in to replace your lost SIM card or to buy a new SIM card, none of that information is useful enough to authenticate you and help sort you out without you haveing to remember the last 5 fuel stations you re-filled your car tank and what amounts it was you purchased, or the last 5 Mama Put you ate at, exactly what you ate, and how much you paid.

Nigeria is an odd place. For example, the Federal Road Safety Corps has our biometrics too, but cannot verify/authenticate us with certainty either anywhere. All that information collected is useless.

If you have lost your SIM card and need it replaced, you should be able to walk into an Airtel outlet, put your finger on a scanner and the system authenticate you and pull out your profile without any issues. Which would mean you should not even need an identity card or SIM certificate to retrieve your lost SIM.

And because you are already in their database, should you need to buy a new SIM, you should not have to fill another form for that. After the biometric authentication, all they have to do is add the new SIM to your profile! It should be that easy. You should be able to walk in and be out within 5 minutes.

Those long queues would disappear from mobile network centres, workers will be less stressed, subscribers would be happier, and the world would be a better place.

But no: till date, you are required to go through this outlandish process of remembering dates and purchases. And they request this too when you want to swap your SIM, say from a an old type to a nano or 4G type. The card isn’t lost; it is there in your hands, but you are still asked to pull out these information from your posterior.

NCC Nigerian Communications Commission

Between the NCC and the networks, there is a need for this process of retrieving a lost SIM to be reviewed. It is outlandish, stressful for everyone, and makes no sense. Use technology to make things easier, not more difficult.

If you have lost your SIM card, what does a replacement cost?

At the moment, you are charged N500. Either the network says the new SIM card costs N150, plus N350 airtime on the retrieved line, or that the SIM is free and they are loading N500 on the line. It doesn’t matter even if you had N7,000 on the line in question. Yes.

Important: Do not throw your SIM pack away!

SIM certificate

I was shocked to find out that quite a number of people just throw their SIM packs away. No, no, no! Do not. Your SIM pack contains your SIM Certificate, which has vital information on it. If you lost your SIM card and are unable to present your SIM certificate, you will have a more tedious time getting a replacement SIM.

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