Saturday, 9th December 2023

Nigerians demand seamless NIN registration as Coker-Odusote takes charge

By Adeyemi Adepetun, Assistant Editor
26 August 2023   |   4:22 am
A banker, who simply identified herself as Bukola Adegbaju, was seen at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) office in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, recently.

NIN registration

A banker, who simply identified herself as Bukola Adegbaju, was seen at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) office in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, recently. Her mission was to correct an error on her National Identification Number (NIN) slip, which had to do with her date of birth, but she had not been attended to after three days of visiting the office.

“The mistake was from NIMC because I gave them the correct details. When the slip came out, it was another thing entirely that came out. I had contacted someone at the FESTAC Secretariat, who said I should bring N40, 000 and that within four days, the error would be sorted, but I don’t have that amount of money. That’s why I came to Alausa, where I learnt they collect N15, 000 to rectify mistake. Today (yesterday) made it the third day of coming, but I have not been attended to. The crowd is much; you too can see the crowd yourself. I need the corrected NIN slip to process my international passport. I want to leave this country,” Adegbaju stated.

Chinedu Okorie, who also wanted to correct an error made in his son’s NIN had to visit the Ikeja office severally to get it done, even with insider assistance, but it would take three months for the correction to be effected in all other data bases. “What it means is that I have to suspend my son’s visa until the correction reflects completely. If not, the discrepancy in the names would deny him a study visa to the United States,” Okorie said.

Harrison Etiku, who visited the centre for name correction, also said: “I have been here since 7am and up till now (2:47pm) I’m yet to be attended to, even in this hot sun. I have been in the sun, walking up and down.”

With a huge number of Nigerians yet to register for their NIN and thousands of others seeking to effect one correction or the other in the details, the job of the new Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Bisoye Coker-Odusote, has been well cut out for her.

Nigerians who spoke with The Guardian want her to prioritise complete national coverage to speed up clearing of backlog of unfinished registrations and also drastically reduce the man-hours they lose in their bid to get registered by the commission or have erroneously inputted data corrected.

This is even as Nigeria is about 46 million short of meeting the World Bank’s target of 148 million issued NIN by June 1, 2024, under the Digital Identification for Development (ID4D) project.

Coker-Odusote was appointed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on August 23, in acting capacity, to replace Aliyu Aziz, an engineer. She’s expected to be confirmed fully by November.

While the tasks before Coker-Odusote remain very huge as many Nigerians are yet to register, especially in the rural areas, kudos must, however, be given to the immediate past DG.

At the time of leaving the commission, NIN issuance under Aziz had hit 101.6 million with over 60 million issued to Nigerians amidst several challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, within the last four years.

Recall that in December 2020, former President Muhammadu Buhari had given a directive to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, then under Prof. Isa Pantami, to withdraw the licence of any service provider (MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile), which failed to link NIN to subscribers’ SIM cards. This announcement drastically increased the impetus among Nigerians to get their NINs.

Checks by The Guardian showed that by the time Pantami became the minister for Communications and Digital Economy, which coincided with the re-appointment of Aziz as DG of NIMC, about four years ago, the number of NINs issued to Nigerians hovered between 38 million and 40 million. However, following the directive in December 2020, the NIN registration rose significantly.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in December 2022 showed that some 60 million Nigerians had been added to the NIN database. In addition to that, between January and July 2023, NIMC handed NINs to 6.56 million Nigerians, bringing the figure to over 100million.

The NIN has been captured in the NIMC Act, which makes it mandatory for usage in Nigeria. Aziz, who was faced with lack of funds but with the daunting task of enrolling all Nigerians, including legal residents and giving them an identity, gave impetus to it, a move Buhari backed by activating NIN compulsory feature for sundry government services as had been captured in the Act.

The World Bank bought into this idea and threw its weight behind the scheme under the ID4D project, which is expected to take NIN enrollment to 148 million by June 2024.

The projection by the global apex bank is to increase the number of individuals with a national ID number issued by a robust and inclusive foundational identification system, which facilitates their access to services. The global bank stated that by 2024, not less than 65 per cent of the Nigerian population should have NIN.

“By 2024, the project aims to increase coverage of the national ID in Nigeria to 148 million persons. This figure corresponds to 65 per cent of the total 2024 population of Nigeria and will expand coverage to 91 million adults (80 per cent) as well as 57 million children (50 per cent).”

The timeline in a document, titled: ‘Nigeria Digital Identification for Development Project (P167183)’ specified June 1, 2024.

So far, 6.57 million (1.13 million per month) people have enrolled for NIN in 2023. The monthly 1.13million registration pattern witnessed at the beginning of the year has fallen and currently hovers between 900 and 600 (going by July data). This trend is below the Federal Government’s target of 2.5 million registrations per month.

To achieve the World Bank’s target of 148 million, the government is expected to increase its pace and enroll 47 million individuals in 12 months (about 3.92 million people per month). This is a major task before the Coker-Odusote’s administration at the NIMC.

The World Bank predicts that NIN would cover 85 per cent of the population by 2027.

“The Nigeria Digital ID4D Project will bring coverage of digital ID in Nigeria to 85 per cent of the population and 97.5 per cent of adults by the end of 2027, over the course of two envisaged phases of implementation, which is a foundational element of the digital economy,” the global bank stated.

Nigeria secured $430 million to finance the project with the World Bank’s International Development Association credit of $115 million alongside co-financing of $100 million from the French Agency for Development and $215 million from the European Investment Bank.

A report claimed that only $35.6 million had been disbursed for the implementation of the project as of April 30, 2023.

Further analysis of current July NIMC data showed that a total of 634,603 new enrollees were added to the database.

Analysis of the July database showed that Lagos remained the state with the highest number of enrollments in the country with 11.07 million Nigerians captured. This was followed by Kano State, which recorded nine million registered NINs.

Other states that made the top 10 in terms of the number of enrollments include Kaduna with 6.3 million; Ogun with 4.3 million; Oyo with 3.9 million; Katsina 3.5 million; FCT with 3.4 million; Rivers 3 million; Bauchi 2.7 million and Delta, which also recorded 2.7 million.

NIMC listed the 10 states with the lowest NIN issued to include Akwa-Ibom, 1.7 million; Imo, 1.7 million; Kogi, 1.7 million; Enugu, 1.63 million; Yobe, 1.6 million; Taraba, 1.46 million; Cross River, 1.16 million; Ekiti, 1 million; Ebonyi, 810,612 and Bayelsa, 638,660.

In terms of gender distribution of the enrollees, the NIMC data reveals that 57.7 million, representing 56.79 per cent of Nigerians so far captured in the NIN database are males. On the flip side, 43.9 million, representing 43.21 per cent of the total enrollees are females.
According to NIMC, Diaspora capture is now 464,624, where females have 192,567 NINs and males 272,057.

Stakeholders have, however, called on the new DG to ensure complete national coverage and to clear the backlog of unfinished registrations.

The Chairman, Zinox Group, Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, yesterday, commended Aziz for the work done so far at the commission, but stressed that NIMC has the capacity to do more.

Ekeh, who said the NIMC was his idea, which former President Olusegun Obasanjo bought into, noted that the major challenge of the commission is funding. “NIMC should be budget-driven for performance. Aliyu tried, but the new MD can do better and work on identified gaps to move the commission forward for the good of Nigeria.”

A telecoms sector stakeholder, Kehinde Aluko, told The Guardian that the new DG must ensure that every Nigerian has a means of identification.

Aluko reminded Coker-Odusote that the problems are multi-faceted and dynamic, citing “bribery and corruption; backlogs of national ID card; favouritism; poor synergy and supervision; ineffective coordination; inaccessible NIMC portal and primitive registration” as some of them. He urged her to ensure that the disparate data of Nigerians are adequately and duly hamonised and codified as one entity.

According to him, more funding is needed to increase the current 5,500 active enrollment centres for NIN nationwide and the 15, 000 registration devices nationwide.

The President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said: “He had a lot of issues which were concerns.”

Ogunbanjo urged the new DG to ensure that the NIN registration platform is able to accommodate all the registrations that would be coming in.

The NATCOMs boss urged the commission to deepen collaboration with the mobile network operators to further expand the registration and subsequent NIN issuance.

“The last administration said they were overwhelmed because they lacked the capacity to accommodate the number of people enrolling then. I think the new DG should expand NIMC capacity, make the process seamless by simplifying the entire process with more advanced technology. Today, virtually everything depends on you having a NIN—drivers licence, international passport, SIM cards, among others,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the removal of Aliyu as DG of NIMC has been described as a bad precedent, something that may not go well futuristically.

Some stakeholders who spoke anonymously noted that Aziz is not on the regular civil service employment, but on an appointment that has a fixed tenure of four years.

“I remember that Aliyu worked at NIMC from 2007 at inception till 2014, when he retired as Director of IT. President Muhammadu Buhari then appointed him as Director-General in 2015, specifically on November 24. Aziz served out his first tenure in 2019. He was reappointed for a second tenure of four years, which is due to end on November 24, 2023. Directing him to proceed on ‘pre-retirement leave’ appears to introduce a strange twist to tenured appointment,” a stakeholder stated.

Another stakeholder asked: “Who is supposed to go on ‘pre-retirement leave?’ What’s the reason for pushing such on a tenured Federal Government appointee, three months before his due exit date, when some civil servants (not FG appointees) have overstayed their 60th birthday retirement, for example, the acting Comptroller General of Immigration. That tenure ends on November 23, 2023, not earlier. With this development, President Tinubu’s administration is setting a wrong precedent.”

The stakeholder explained further that only civil servants can go on pre-retirement leave as they approach their 60th birthday or 35th year in service, whichever applies.

“Or have you ever, in the history of Nigeria, heard of a tenured appointee, who had retired, and then was appointed go on pre-retirement leave? That will be a second retirement or
what? ”

“By the way, as you know, but just to stress, Aziz was a pioneer staff of NIMC in 2007, worked there all through till he retired in 2014 as the Director of IT. Note, I said retired. When former President Buhari won his election and was sworn-in on May 29, 2015, and it was approaching the end of the second tenure of NIMC’s pioneer DG, he fished out Aziz, given his record, experience and expertise. Hence he appointed him DG on November 24, 2015. That is first tenure finished successfully on a sound note, in 2019. And, seeing that the DG was doing well, Buhari renewed the tenure, which is due to end on November 23, 2023.

“If they were thorough, they could have requested information and guidance from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), where all records are domiciled. So, they would not need to have fallen into this ignominious gaffe.

“Tinubu claims to have been elected for a term of four years. Will he proceed on “pre-retirement leave” three months to the end of his tenure?

“Tenure is fixed. Civil service work is fixed for 60 years of age for retirement or 35 years in service. Only at this latter level (civil servants) do the workers go on pre-retirement leave, as expressly stated in the civil service rules,” the source added.

In his farewell speech last Thursday, Aziz appreciated God, NIMC Governing Board, management and staff, whom he said worked tirelessly to sustain and grow NIMC as an organisation.

Aziz, who equally appreciated the President, Supervisory Minister, SGF and sister government agencies, said: “It has been an honour and an exciting adventure to help the digital identity sector in Nigeria to reposition and reclaim its rightful place. I am pleased to see where NIMC is today and I am positive that the future of NIMC will be brighter, better and full of many more accomplishments.

“To the incoming DG/CEO of NIMC, I wish you success as you assume the leadership of this great commission. I pray that you will expand and extend the work done and take it to even greater heights,” he added.