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Enrollees decry extortions, queues return to NIN centres

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[FILE] Applicants queue to obtain national identity numbers at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) office, in the Lagos state capital of Ikeja. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)


• Lagos residents cough out between N5,000 and N10, 000.
• In Enugu, some applicants part with items, run errands
• NIMC threatens offenders, releases phone numbers for complaints

With about a month to the deadline for Nigerians to complete registration, verification and linking of the National Identity Number (NIN) with their Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) cards, crowds are gradually returning to the various enrolment centres across the country.

A survey by The Guardian in Abuja, Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna and Enugu also revealed cases of extortion as the crowd returned. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had on February 1, announced an eight-week extension to April 6 for the NIN-SIM registration, which was targeted at ensuring that more Nigerians get ample time to register for their NINs and link it up with their SIM cards.
   
According to the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) about 60 million NINs have been submitted to NIMC for verification. As of January, Airtel declared it had collected 21 million NINs out of its 44.4 million subscriber base, leaving 23.4 million subscribers with unlinked sim cards and at the risk of disconnection.

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In the audited results for the financial year ended December 31, 2020, MTN said 37.2 million subscribers had submitted their NINs, representing 48.7 per cent of the subscriber base.
    
Indeed, the extension announcement actually reduced the crowds at the centres, with many subscribers having to relax. Checks by The Guardian in the last three days, showed crowds have returned to enrolment centres, especially the telecommunications operators outlets across the country. Large numbers of Nigerians were spotted at MTN offices at Opebi, Matori, Ire Akari, Adeola Odeku, Gbagada, among others. Subscribers were also spotted at Globacom offices at Airport Road, Bode Thomas, Ajegunle.
  
At Airtel office on Opebi, Ikeja, Egbeda, Ipaja, among others, crowds were also seen waiting for registration. Enrolees were also seen at NIMC Alausa, Ikeja, hoping to be registered before the deadline. Findings showed that it is the same situation across the country, from Abuja to Akwa Ibom to Edo to Oyo, it is same story of increasing crowds and extortion.
   
At some of the centres visited by The Guardian, the registration agents were only attending to subscribers, who had earlier booked for enrollment, with as many people getting two to three weeks booking.
   
For instance, at the Globacom Airport Road centre, yesterday, agents insisted that only those on appointment would be attended to, which, according to her, were about 15, out of hundreds of people who got to the gate as early as 5a.m. The same scenario played out at the MTN Opebi office.  
   
It was also gathered that some NIMC agents were contracted to carry out enrolment at churches, mosques, and some special centres (community leaders house) for people in those communities.
   
NIMC registration officers were seen enrolling people at Ogunronbi Estate, Idimu; a church at Kogberegbe, Isolo; a hall at Iyana Ejigbo; a Catholic church at Mafoluku, among others. Interestingly, to get registered, subscribers cough out as much as between N5,000 and N10, 000.
   
At the Iyana Ejigbo centre, an agent confirmed they collected N5,000 from every enrollee. He said N3,000 was given to NIMC officials, while they keep N2000. After registering, subscribers would wait for four days to get the NIN, the authenticity of which cannot be immediately verified.
   
At Mafoluku, subscribers are made to pay N4,000 for registration and would wait three days to collect the NIN slip.     
MEANWHILE, the NIMC has reiterated its zero tolerance for corruption, fraudulent activities, and extortion in the process of enrolment and other activities.
   
According to the Director-General/CEO, Aliyu Aziz, NIMC is a responsible and responsive Commission that pursues the highest ethical standard in the discharge of its functions.
  
‘’The Commission recently suspended some staff members and terminated the appointment of some, who engaged in acts of extortion and unwholesome practices detrimental to its values,” he said.
     
The Commission also called on the general public to desist from being enablers of extortion, as it would not condone any act capable of destroying its hard-earned integrity.
  
“The NIMC, therefore, urges the general public to report any form of extortion and unwholesome practices through its official platforms by calling 08157691214; 09134959433; send e-mail to actu@nimc.gov.ng; or lodge complaints via its website- www.nimc.gov.ng.    
   
“Remember, enrolment for NIN is free,” it said.
IN Abuja, enrollees told The Guardian that they were asked to part with money before they were captured, even as the Director General said he had come with supervisory checks to counter actions standing at variance with the commissions’ corporate ethical standards.

Earlier, an enrollee, John Pan, at one of the centres had said: “I was at one of the centres to register and was asked to pay N3,000 before I would be captured. They insisted that the money was for fuel for the generator.”

Another, Sandra Ngutor, complained that getting her National Identity Number, NIN took over a month, explaining that it was not until she paid was she issued one.

SIMILARLY, it was observed in Enugu that while some enrollees part with between N1,000 and N2,000, some gave out items such as recharge cards, biros or run errands run errands for the registration officials.In some of the centres visited, it was discovered that crowds still surged with minimal control.

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At the registration point located within the Government House, registrants were asked to write their names and return at a future date. But investigation showed that those willing to part with some money were registered under emergency, even after official closing time.
A lady, who identified herself as Nneka, informed The Guardian that the intervention of a friend working in Government House helped her to register yesterday.

She said: “Even at that, I had to drop a token of appreciation to at least make them happy. That is basically because, you need to see the way they were shouting and complaining about one or two things. They will complain that network is not going; they will complain they have run out of paper, they will complain they need to go for break and what have you. But if you offer them some money, they will attend to you politely. It’s unfortunate,” she said.

At the registration centre at the Enugu Secretariat, some people complained that they had spent two days attempting to register. One Okechukwu Onu said he submitted his form last week and was given appointment for yesterday, adding however that he had spent three hours without being registered. He said he had to pay N3,000 to be registered.

“It is not for me to tell you which registration centre, but the truth is that I paid. Somebody linked me with one of the officials whom I called and later met. He told me it was an emergency and I needed to grease the palms of his colleagues. He asked me to return yesterday, which I did. I got there and became the second person to be registered, despite the crowd that had gathered. That is the way it is.”

But the NIMC Enugu State Coordinator, Mrs. Chizoba HBC-Ogboko, said the Commission was not taking it lightly and had suspended an employee over breaches.

RIVERS residents also accused officials of NIMC at the Port Harcourt Office of extorting applicants. Investigations by The Guardian yesterday revealed that at the NIMC centre at GRA in Port Harcourt, forms were sold at N50 at the gate by agents who also offered to help people facilitate their registration with N5, 000. 

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Some applicants in an interview lamented that they went through hell to enroll for NIN. One of the agents told The Guardian, who disguised as an applicant, that they work for NIMC officials and get payment monthly. He said: “Applicants are being charged N5,000 for express because they did not come when it was done for free. 

“It is better you buy the form here at the gate for just N50 because you can’t even go inside there.  If you want express registration, you will have to pay 5,000, but if you don’t want express, you will buy the form, fill it and come back in the next three weeks or more as the case may be.

The situation is not different in Kaduna State, where officials of the Arewa Youth for Progress and Development (AYPD) criticized NIMC. The President of AYPD, Danjuma Sarki, said: “I want to say that this NIN registration is bringing untold hardship both physically and financially to our members because many people go to the centres to get registered, according to the instructions of government, but you find out that the queues are always very long and most times, people are given numbers and they may not be called that day.

“When they come the next day they have to form another queue with different numbers given to the people again. And some people would be bypassing the queues and be offering bribes, or the NIMC officials will be requesting for money from people so that they will facilitate their registration.”

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