Nigeria ordered telecommunications companies, including MTN Group Ltd. and Airtel Africa Plc, to suspend the sale of SIM cards while authorities check their compliance with registration guidelines. It didn’t say how long the review would take.
“Mobile network operators are hereby directed to immediately suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM cards until the audit exercise is concluded,” the Nigerian Communications Commission said in a statement on its website.
Johannesburg-based MTN’s local unit, the West African country’s biggest wireless operator, said it had complied with the directive, according to a notice it sent to customers.
Airtel Africa, which listed in Lagos and London last year, vies with local operator Globacom Ltd. as the country’s second-biggest carrier.
The NCC fined MTN in 2015 for failing to disconnect undocumented SIM cards as part of a security crackdown. The matter was resolved a year later when the company paid 330 billion naira ($839 million) after extensive negotiations.
MTN shares fell as much as 8.6% in Johannesburg, the most in almost seven months, before paring the decline to 5% as of 3:38 p.m. MTN Nigeria Communications Plc fell 0.8% in Lagos, while Airtel Africa was 1.2% lower in London.