Nigerians have been given an additional three weeks to link their National Identification Number (NIN) with their SIM registration records.

President Muhammadu Buhari approved the extension of the ongoing NIN/SIM linking exercise till February 9, 2021, according to the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).

The association said the extension will help in the mission to create a credible national identity database for the country.

"To ensure that we utilise the extension period judiciously, we urge all telecom subscribers who have a NIN to link it to their SIM Cards through available channels as soon as possible.

"Those yet to enroll are advised to visit www.nimc.gov.ng for a list of enrolment centres close to them," the agency said in a statement on Wednesday, January 20.

The NIN is issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) upon enrolment into the National Identity Database and is used to capture an individual's records.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in December directed telecommunications operators to deactivate all SIM cards not registered with NIN by the end of 2020.

After pressure from the public over the short deadline, it was extended with subscribers with NIN expected to link it with their SIM records before January 19, and those without NIN given till February 9 to get it and update their records.

With the January 19 deadline now expired, the deactivation of phone lines has been extended till February 9 altogether with Buhari's approval.

The exercise has been widely-criticised by Nigerians who have described the government's action as reckless.

The exercise has forced millions of Nigerians to rush to NIMC centres to register at the same time the nation is battling a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.