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The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has lent its voice to the furore being generated by the ongoing National Identification Number (NIN) registration exercise amidst the rising cases of the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 Pandemic.

In a release issued by CACOL and signed by Tola Oresanwo, the anti-corruption organization’s Director, Administration and Programmes on behalf of its Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he stated, “It would be recalled that the Federal Government through the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) mandated the telecommunications operators across the country to block all the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) not linked with NIN by December 30, 2020. Later, after widespread opposition from the general public, the deadline was inevitably extended to January 19, 2021. A six-week extension for subscribers without NIN to February 9, 2021 was also granted. This has led to phenomenal increase in the number of people showing up daily at the few available National Identity Management Commission registration Centres in order to beat the deadline”.

From the look of things now, we believe there is an urgent need for the government to extend the deadline for registration and subsequent linking of NIN with SIM cards for obvious reasons. Firstly, in the last few weeks Nigeria has lost some of her illustrious sons and daughters to the dreaded COVID-19 disease currently ravaging various nations of the world. The upsurge in the wave of the disease has led to the untimely death of 1,405 people going by the records of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as of January 14, 2021. Some countries are on lockdown as a result of the second wave of this pandemic but it is funny that the government here is not taking the measures to control the spread of the virus serious as large number of people daily gather at these registration centres thereby defying the COVID 19 prevention protocols especially as applicable in public places. This is a very good reason for government to extend the deadline and allow for lesser number of people at the registration centres.

Moreover, it is obvious now that with less than four weeks to the February deadline, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is still yet to conduct enrolment of all persons, including legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB). The process from all indications is moving at a very slow pace. The agency has only been able to enrol about 42 million Nigerians in the last 10 years. Nigeria has about 203 million telephone subscribers most of whom are not registered with the NIMC. What will be the fate of these hapless Nigerians if their SIM were blocked or deactivated?

Furthermore, there had been cases of extortion of applicants in some registration centres across the country. It would be recalled that on Sunday, January 3, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami directed the immediate suspension of the staff fingered in extortion of NIN applicants at the NIMC Bauchi and Kaduna state offices. We know that these cases of extortion are not peculiar to these two states as it has become a norm in different parts of the country. We have always posited that if you make doing the right thing difficult, then doing the wrong thing would be a commonplace. Our people will go to any length to get their NIN and prevent their SIM cards from being blocked even if it involves greasing the palms of officials of NIMC.

We have observed that the NIN process is being hindered nationwide, and this is majorly as a result of shortage of facilities that can cater for the large number of Nigerians who are ready to enroll and inadequate handling of the process by the licensed centres approved by the federal government across the country. We should also not forget that at some point the NIMC staff staged a protest, went on strike and complained that they have been denied allowances and a suitable working condition in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CACOL Boss added, “in view of the aforementioned reasons, we believe it is expedient for the federal government of Nigeria to extend the registration period and the subsequent linking of the NIN to SIM cards in order not to cause unnecessary panic in the land. Blocking the SIM of Nigerians who have always been at the receiving end of government’s policies that are bereft of adequate strategic planning will no doubt have negative effects on our people’s legitimate businesses nationwide. If you notice the traders, artisans, and even some professionals, most of these people depend on their phone lines as a means to contact them”.

We (CACOL) therefore align with other responsible and well meaning Nigerians to call on the government to extend the registration period and rescind its decision to block phone lines of telecommunication subscribers who have not linked their NIN to their SIM by February 9 this year. We hope the government will reason with us on this and do the needful”.

Mr. Tola Oresanwo

Director, Administration and Programmes, CACOL

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