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Scramble for identification numbers forces deadline extension

Related

• Commission shuts Lagos office against unwieldy crowd
• Issues new guidelines
• Expert warns of COVID-19 spread

There was stampede, yesterday, as Nigerians besieged offices of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) across the country to get their National Identification Number (NIN).

The development forced the Commission to shut down its Lagos office and to extend its deadlines.

From Lagos to Abuja, Uyo and other parts of the country, it is the same story of overcrowded registration centres.

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This crowd is as result of efforts by Nigerians to meet the two weeks deadline given to subscribers to get their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards linked to their NIN. Findings showed that only about 44 million Nigerians have NIN.

The Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had last week called for the revalidation of the over 200 million telephone lines in the country, and a two-week period beginning from December 16 to 30 was given. Failure of linking both SIM and NIN together would lead to the blocking of the telephone line.

Checks by The Guardian, yesterday, showed hundreds of Nigerians gathered at the Alausa office of the NIMC to obtain their NIN. Unfortunately, most people at the centre were either not wearing face masks or not observing physical distancing, thereby flouting the protocol put in place by the government in a bid to tackle the spread of COVID-19, which has been rising in the last one week.

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Some of them, who spoke with The Guardian, decried the entire process and asked the Federal Government to be innovative in the process.

Kazeem Adisa said he got to the NIMC office as early as 5a.m., only to meet a list of over 100 people, “I got baffled. I am not sure when it will get to me today. So many of us like that. The Federal Government needs to be more innovative. This is not working at all.”

Another applicant, Jokotade Bamgbola, said: “Just look at this. What’s stopping them from having an NIMC app or something, where people can just register from the comfort of their homes? Must we suffer to get everything in this country?”

Nnamdi Ibekwe lamented that social distancing was not in practice. According to him, it is important for people to know that standing in a queue for long exposes one to COVID-19 if there was an infected person there.

“Let’s be wise so that the prophecy of seeing dead bodies on the streets of Nigeria will not come to pass,” he stated.
On Twitter, Bobbysexy@bobbysexi wrote: “They keep talking about COVID-19 and they want an average of 60 million people to do NIMC registration in few offices, when the stress and risk can be reduced by spending on digital frame work for people who have Internet access, and smartphones.”

THE confusion forced the NIMC to shut down its Lagos office after a crowd, yesterday, besieged the premises, seeking to register for their NIN.

After distributing forms to the enrollees, the process ended abruptly, leading to confusion and tension.

Officials explained they had to halt the process because they received orders from above, which may not be unconnected with criticism of the deadline at a time Nigeria was battling a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to NIMC Director of Corporate Communications, Kayode Adegoke, the Lagos centre was shut down because the crowd that gathered refused to comply with COVID-19 protocols.

An official at the Lagos centre, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said biometric capturing started around 7:00a.m., with hundreds of people arriving at the gate to be captured. “When I got here at 6:23a.m., I couldn’t drive in, I had to park my car somewhere else,” he said.

He said the process was coordinated at first, as the officials moved 170 people in to sit, while others were left outside the gate for orderliness.

“All of a sudden, those at the gate forced the gate open and all rushed in. That was when the problem started. They were uncontrollable. At the time the pictures were taken and circulated online, we got an order from Abuja to stop the process,” he added.

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FOLLOWING the confusion widely circulated on the social media, the Federal Government extended the initial period of December 16 to 30 by three weeks, setting a new deadline of January 19, 2021. It also set a new period of six weeks for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020 to February 9, 2021.

This was contained in a statement by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

The statement titled, ‘Extension of registration period and cancellation of USSD and verification fees’, was jointly signed by the Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta; and Director-General, National Identity Management Commission, Aliyu Aziz.

It read, “The National Task Force on National Identification Number and SIM Registration met today, December 21, 2020.

“The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami with major stakeholders. Based on the endorsement of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the following resolutions were made: “Three weeks extension for subscribers with NIN from 30th December, 2020 to 19th January, 2021; and six weeks extension for subscribers without NIN from 30th December, 2020 to February 9, 2021.

The statement added NIMC had provided strategies to enable citizens attend the registration in full compliance with COVID-19 protocols, particularly the use of face masks and maintenance of social distancing.

To ease the NIN registration process, the Federal Government approved the licensing of 173 centres and 30 state government institutions to conduct enrolment of persons into the National Identity Database.

Telecoms giant, MTN, which is one of the firms given the licence to enrol persons into the NIMC database, announced on Saturday that it was importing 14, 000 devices for the NIN registration and they are expected to arrive in two weeks.

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