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How NIN is used as weapon to torment Nigerians

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Some Nigerians are waiting to register for the National Identity Number at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Office in Lagos on Wednesday (30/12/20). 07230/30/12/2020/Kayode Oladapo/TA/BJO/NAN

The demand for NIN at a time the entire world is facing a pandemic is most insensitive and should be halted forthwith to save Nigerians from the deadly coronavirus. The February 9, deadline is unrealistic under the prevailing circumstances. No sane country would embark on this sort of project at this time. What is worth doing is worth doing well. No country compels its citizens to obtain national ID by force but by gradual administrative process.

Truth be told, if there is one policy in Nigeria that has failed woefully to achieve its desired patriotic national objective, it is the National Identity Card policy. There are several other rogue policies that are just there gulping billions without recording any success.

It is unfortunate that the agencies concerned are allowed to continue milking the system for no justifiable reason. If Nigerians have the National ID, the issues of census and election malpractices would be dramatically resolved. But alas, there is no headway through the ID card policy.

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My focus, for now is on the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which is the body, charged with the responsibility of issuing National ID card/National Identification Number (NIN) to Nigerians but which has grossly failed to do so.

But having failed, the same national ID card or its number is now being used as a weapon to torment Nigerians. The other day, it was the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) that, early in 2018, pegged the issuance of Nigerian passport to the possession of the National ID card; a move that was widely condemned as illegal and it was dropped.

Not long ago, there were also reports that the Police in Borno State were demanding NIN at road blocks in Maiduguri. It is not clear why the Police embarked on such bizarre venture, and why it was mainly in Maiduguri.

The other day, the most annoying came from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), when it made the possession of NIN as a requirement for candidates wishing to sit for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). The demand put confusion in thousands of candidates, many of who have heard of NIN or where or how it is obtained.

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JAMB had said in September 2019, that it was working with the NIMC to ensure that candidates for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination register for the National Identity Number. The JAMB Registrar, Prof Is-haq Oloyede, who made the disclosure in Abuja, noted that the NIN would work against all forms of “registration infractions, which is the foundation of examination malpractices.”

He said the introduction of the NIN to UTME was in line with the directive of the Federal Government that the NIMC should be the primary data collection centre. What has the Federal Government’s directive got to do with JAMB and the issue of examination malpractices?

If this is law, does it apply only to JAMB candidates? What about WAEC, NECO and other tertiary institution candidates? Are they exempted from the rule? The penchant of JAMB to introduce one stricture or the other to make things difficult for candidates every year is unbecoming of what is supposed to be a national examination body. In 2020, it was NIN; nobody knows what constraint JAMB will introduce against candidates this year. Is it not amazing that JAMB has not attained stability more than 30 years since it was established?

The latest demand on Nigerians by the Federal Government and its agency NIMC to obtain the NIN before February 9, 2021 or have their telephone lines disconnected is tantamount to an assault on not only Nigerians but also on the telephone companies (telcos), whose operations have been partially suspended by way of no new SIM card registration or welcome back services for those who lost their phones. This order, at this most inauspicious time of global COVID-19 pandemic, shows the height of insensitivity and underlies the issue of misgovernance in Nigeria.

Bearing in mind the previous attempts by NIMC to cover its gross inefficiency by demanding NIN as precondition for providing one service or the other to Nigerians, there is certainly nothing to show that the latest order would succeed amid the chaos and confusion that the exercise has engendered.

Besides, coming at a time when the whole world is on edge over the ravaging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, whereby countries are imposing lockdown and movement of people are restricted as people are advised to stay indoors, one cannot fathom why the Nigerian authorities would come up with a policy that negates the pandemic but instead calls Nigerians out for NIN registration, with huge uncontrollable crowds streaming to the so-called NIN registration centres to register. This development has exposed millions of hapless citizens to the risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 to the chagrin of the global community.

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At this juncture, it is pertinent to ask who brought the idea of NIN registration amid a deadly pandemic that has killed millions around the world. Latest figures show Nigeria has over 100, 000 confirmed infections with 1,358 deaths. Why is this disaster not countenanced by the Federal Government?

Besides, there is gross inconsistency in the way government is handling the COVID-19 pandemic vis-à-vis the NIN registration project. As it were, government is in a fix as to whether or not to impose a second lockdown at a time the economy is in recession. While some Ekiti State has imposed lockdown, Lagos State imposed curfew against night clubs. How do citizens in states where there is restriction on movement go out for NIN registration?

Reports say Nigerian embassies are in disarray as they can’t pay rent, allowances and maintenance bills, even as some 82 missions are without ambassadors. The price of oil, Nigeria’s main economic backbone is low and fluctuating.

Many state governments are having difficulty paying salaries and other statutory emoluments. A number of federal government’s ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) are facing the same challenge. Unemployment has worsened. Millions of Nigerians are famished and unable to eat one meal a day.

The foregoing and more underlie the ugly state of affairs under which the Federal Government is gearing towards disconnecting the telephone lines of millions who, certainly, would not be able to register NIN by the February 9 deadline.
So far, the telephone sub-sector is perhaps one of the vibrant and functional sectors that employs thousands in addition to facilitating business and communications. Faced with recession and COVID-19 pandemic, which demands that government should employ uncommon acumen to pull the country out of the quagmire, the same government is senselessly trying to hamper the effectiveness of the telcos and thereby encouraging job layoffs once millions of telephone lines are disconnected. This is ridiculous and unbecoming.

While other countries are focusing on containing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic through sensible measures, including giving palliatives and cash cheques to cushion the impacts of lockdown and restrictions on the populace, it is not clear where Nigeria’s focus lies. Is it to register the acclaimed over 200 million people on the NIN platform in order to maintain their telephone lines or is it to come up with measures to contain the COVID-19?

It should be noted that there are millions of Nigerians who have no telephones and so have no need for the NIN if its purpose is to verify the telephone lines. Is this group exempted from the NIN since they have no telephone lines to disconnect? This shows the flaw in the whole exercise.

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The Federal Government launched a registration process for obtaining the national identity card in February 2003. Eighteen years since the project kicked off, not many Nigerians have been able to get the National ID card. There are people who have registered for about two or three times without success. One may succeed in registering but to get the ID card is a Herculean task. Why is it so?

I can’t understand why, except that some forces may be manipulating the National ID project for selfish political reasons. In this age of digital data collection, it is proving very difficult to get the National ID card. These day, banks register and issue ATM cards in a matter of minutes. Bank customers carry out all kinds of transactions on-line in minutes, why is it difficult to issue National ID card to Nigerians?

As things stand, no ministry, department or agency of government should use possession of the National ID card/NIN as a condition for doing anything. The truth is that millions of Nigerians don’t have the instrument in towns and cities talk less of rural areas. It is high time the government re-engineered the NIMC for it to be effective to justify the huge resources being wasted on it. The February 9, deadline for obtaining the NIN by Nigerians is very unrealistic. The project should be halted in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and biting recession in the country.

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