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Our anesthetic Nigerian processes

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

I will do something different. I will talk about real life experiences of a few Nigerians who have attempted to get their Nigerian Identification Number (NIN) following the ultimatum given by the Federal Government of Nigeria. NIN is a somewhat new concept (we had National Identity card before) that is supposed to integrate all aspects of our Nigerian life seamlessly and flawlessly. On the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) website, it is touted as the catch-all needed for prevention of fraud (419) where someone else impersonates you, verification of the real identity of other people you go into financial or business transactions with or even people you wish to employ such as house helps and ensuring you are properly identified when receiving health services, e.g., verifying the actual blood types of blood donors at hospitals. It is also important for the verification of voter eligibility during elections. More importantly it is a vital requirement to obtain a travel passport. This is where the plot thickens.

Sandra’s mum, Mrs Ogbuagu, arrived Lagos International airport on the 17thof January 2021, eager to see her daughter, renew her passport and go back to the States. She had her return ticket booked for the 24thof January. She reasoned that it would not take too long to renew her passport especially as she already had her NIN.

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The next day, she woke up early and left with Sandra to the passport office at Ikeja. They got to the passport office just before 9:00am. “Good morning Madam. Let me have your NIN slip or card if you have it already.” It was tucked neatly in the corner of her black bag. “This is not NIN madam. This is your National Identity card. Let me have your NIN.” “This is the only thing I have. Isn’t it what we were asked to do sometime back?” “Yes, but the name has changed. It is not National Identity card and we are no longer using this one.”

“Just like that? How does it change? So what should I do now?” “Madam, go to any of the NIN enrolment centres. There’s one at Ketu, not too far from here. These questions you are asking-they will answer them at the centre. But you are a Nigerian-you should know how these things work.”

They got to the NIN centre at Ketu after about two hours in traffic. A massive crowd had gathered at the gate, under a 340C weather. Sandra and her mum managed to push their way to the front of the gate and met with a surly man, who had a gentle pot belly. “Good afternoon Oga.” Sandra greeted. He was about to walk away when he took a second look at Mrs. Ogbuagu. “Good afternoon ma” He greeted Sandra’s mum. “You are here to do NIN?” “Yes, please.” “Hmmm…ok.” He looked around like he was looking for someone. “Mummy na because na you o. We don close o. Na till tomorrow.”

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He motioned for Sandra and her mum to follow him as he turned and inched closer towards the gate. He whispered to the security guard and the gates were opened just enough to allow only the two of them to enter the premises. Away from the crowd now, he peered at Mrs Ogbuagu. “Mummy na express I wan do for you. As I look you, I know say e no go good make I leave you like that under sun. Na just five thousand naira make I take buy coke for my colleagues. Them don pack sef, I go just beg them.”  By this time, sweat trickles were pouring down Mrs. Ogbuagu’s face and her head throbbed with pain. They agreed to give him the five thousand naira. The NIN process was carried out in minutes.

The next day they went back to the Passport office, armed with the NIN slip. After the necessary forms were filled, the officer came back. “Sorry ma. We cannot process the passport. Your NIN hasn’t dropped on the system.” “How do you mean dropped?” Sandra asked, confused. “Is it fake?” “No, not that. The NIN server is down, so these sets of NIN done recently haven’t been updated on the system.” “When will it be updated, please?” Mrs. Ogbuagu asked, her voiced laced with frustration. “We don’t know, Ma. We will just wait for the server to come on.” The server at Ketu office stayed down for another five days.

On the sixth day, as early as 5am, the immigration officer called Mrs Ogbuagu to come for her capture as the server was finally up. She literally arrived at the passport office without having a shower, eager to put a closure to the seemingly unending nightmare. She left on the 27th of January but not without paying extra charges for date change.
To be continued tomorrow.

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