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NIN registration: Complaints galore as bottlenecks fester amid COVID-19 scare

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

The current drive by the Federal Government to ensure that every Nigerian obtains a National Identification Number (NIN) has no doubt caught the full attention of the masses. Unlike before when a good percentage of the population were somewhat nonchalant about the project, almost every adult Nigerian who was yet to be enrolled, especially subscribers to the GSM networks in the country, have been eager to do so since December 15, 2020. On that date, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directed telecommunications operators in the country like MTN, Airtel, Glo, 9Mobile and others to block all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM), popularly known as SIM cards, that were not registered with the NIN within two weeks from that date.

Following outcry by Nigerians, the Federal Government later granted a three-week extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020, to January 19, 2021; and six weeks extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020, to February 9, 2021. Expectedly, the affected Nigerians have been making frantic efforts to beat the deadline. While some have succeeded, others, in their large numbers, have not for no fault of theirs.

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Findings showed that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was very ill prepared to attend to the number of intending enrollees who now besiege their offices on a daily basis. Aside from long delays at the centres as a result of malfunctioning machines and/or incompetent staff, reports of alleged extortion and other sharp practices by the staff of the Commission have been rife lately. Touts were also taking advantage of the inefficiency of the Commission to feed fat on the desperation of many. And this was not just happening in one state of the federation. As it was in Lagos State, so it was in other states monitored by The Guardian.

When The Guardian visited the NIMC Centre in Isolo, Lagos, there were ‘agents’ at the gate who offered to help people facilitate their registration for a ‘small fee’ of N30, 000. The Guardian rejected their offer and went into the premises where a huge crowd gathered. There was a civil defence officer, a woman, guarding the entrance. She demanded the sum of N200 from anyone who sought to speak with her. When asked what the money was for, she responded that it was for “form and photocopy but you will still need to pay another N100 to actually get the form.”

Upon paying this money after much argument, she rudely told The Guardian that everyone was given a date to come back, noting that the next available date was February 11, 2022. When her attention was drawn to the fact that the date was a year and a month away, she angrily ordered The Guardian to leave the place.

It was at this point that another woman at the centre, who identified herself as Oloidi Bukola, called The Guardian aside and said: “You have to call her aside and speak with her quietly. I paid N10, 000 last week and was asked to come today and now I have gotten the temporary slip. You have to be patient because they (NIMC officials) are attending to a lot of people. I have been here since 6.00am today and if you want, I can give you the number of the other officer to assist you.”

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There were hundreds of people both inside and outside the offices, struggling to get registered. One of such people was Mrs. Rejoice Okocha and her two daughters, aged 10 and seven years respectively. They got to the centre at 8.00am but had not been registered at 3.00pm.

“We came with here around 8:00am to do the NIN registration but up till this time our names or numbers are yet to be called. To get the form, I parted with N300 (N100 for each form), which I got at a photocopying centre by the entrance gate.

“Going by the list, we ought have been home by now, as we were among the early birds, but it appears the officials have people they are calling and registering, as they always come out from the office to call names with forms on their hands,” she complained.

As the intending registrants voiced their complaints amid intense pushing and shoving, the NIMC officials also complained that the “network keeps disappearing.” At some point, the civil defence officer had some hopeful registrants contribute money among themselves to buy food and refreshments for herself and the NIMC officials doing the registration. The officer, who refused to divulge her name, said they only attended to 20 people daily and boasted that those outside were wasting their time, as they wouldn’t be attended to. Bukola, however, scoffed at her claim, saying she was waiting for people to get well frustrated and begin to ask for her assistance “so that she would bill you well. All of them are in on it; they share the money among themselves.”

After several hours at the centre, The Guardian headed to the Oshodi NIMC office at Bolade, where an even bigger crowd gathered. The crowd was so much that those who desired to gain entrance quickly were required to part with N5,000. Once inside, one had to buy the NIMC form for N50 and the civil defence officer signed on it as evidence of payment. After that, the long wait began downstairs. Those who were lucky enough had their names called and were given the temporary slip while the unlucky ones were asked to come back the next day.

Blessing Eghosa, who was at the centre, told The Guardian: “I left my house in Ejigbo since 5:30am just to get here early and get it done but I was deceiving myself because it is not by coming early but by having money. When I saw how the whole thing was being run, I came with money yesterday and was able to buy my way in. Now, they are telling us to pay N400 for printing and photocopy after parting with N5,000. I paid the money to one officer named Adekunle and he has been the one helping so many of us here to get this thing done.”

A man who identified himself simply as Daniel complained that he had been coming to the centre for over a week but had not been able to register because he refused to bribe anyone.

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He lampooned the Federal Government, wondering why people were being forced to get a NIN in the middle of a pandemic.

“This is something we could easily have done online, which is faster and safer. But how else will they steal money if they don’t do it like this? I have been coming here daily for about a week and there is no head or tail to this thing. All they want to do is collect bribes and frustrate us,” he lamented.

At the NIMC centre in Mushin located at the Mushin local council secretariat, Precious Okafor, said: “I came here three weeks ago. Today, I am still here. I have not been able to get through my registration. We keep standing outside the gate as we can’t gain entrance into the premises.”

Adetutu Oriyemi, who stated that she was visiting the centre for the first time, complained that “the crowd is just too much.”

She lamented: “There is no provision for us to sit, yet we can’t go inside as the gate is locked. I was asked to pay N50 for form. After filling the form, I submitted it and was asked to come back in July. The registration process is just crazy. I wonder if my mobile line won’t be blocked by then because July is just too far away.”

At the NIMC registration centre in Ayobo Ipaja Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Igbogila, a notice – ‘NIN registration is free’ – was conspicuously placed on the wall. However, findings at the centre showed the contrary.

As was the case in other centres, it cost N50 to get the form there. Findings also showed that some officials of the Commission at the centre were in the look out for bribes as one of them approached The Guardian to say: “If you want to register your NIN, it will take you till August because that is the period we have available dates. However, if you want me to get it done soonest, you pay N5, 000 and your slip will be ready this week.”

The statement by the official validated the claim of some intending registrants who had waited for hours without being attended to.

To Ms. Precious Eronmose, who was at the centre, “everything is just a scam. They are just attending to people they know. Once you have your money, they would attend to you. Everything else is just for formalities. The entire process is too difficult. You have to come very early and wait for them to resume. Once they resume, they still have to take their time before they attend to you.

“Today, they just came and said that we should return on August 19. They didn’t explain anything. I feel they should just automate the process. They should make it easier for people, because we already have valid IDs that they can also use as reference.”

Another intending registrant, who preferred to be identified as Olamide, berated the Commission for the sluggishness and impoliteness of its officials.

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She said: “It is very hard to register. It is taking a lot of time. I don’t even know the adjective to describe their reception today. It is nothing to write home about. They didn’t even explain the process. It should not be. There should be people on ground to tell you the direction of things. As for my registration, they postponed it till August without any explanation. We don’t even know our fate as regards whether my SIM card would be blocked.

Enrollees struggling to gain access into one of the enrolment centres in Calabar, Cross River State. PHOTO: AGOSI TODO

“There should be other avenues where people can access this registration, especially people in rural areas. We don’t have to go through this stress.”

Cross River Needs More Registration Centres, Residents Say
From Agosi Todo, Calabar
RESIDENTS in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, have lamented government’s inability to provide more centres for the registration of the National Identity Number (NIN). They expressed concern that the continued overcrowding of the existing centres would aid the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the state.

The residents, who were seen in some of the centres in Calabar, lamented government’s failure to introduce initiatives that would make the process easier for the masses.

One of the residents waiting to be registered at the University of Calabar (UNICAL) centre, said: “We are not comfortable with the crowd because of COVID-19. You people are preaching against the spread of COVID-19. Yesterday, 1,200 cases were reported but every day they keep on gathering people here. What do you expect? If really there is COVID-19 that means everybody will contract the virus with this exercise. So, what we are advocating is that the government should create more centres for easy enrolment like what they did in 2003.

“For instance, many aged people who have mobile phones cannot come to town. Somebody that is coming from Obudu to the state capital will spend nothing less than N12,000 on transport and when he/she comes, he/she will not finish the registration that same day. Those are the stress the government is putting the citizens through.

“I was here before nine o’clock and my own case is even different. I have my ID card here; it is just to print the slip again for me. That is what has been keeping me here for over eight hours. I believe I’m speaking the mind of everybody here; look at this old woman sitting in the sun.”

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A student of UNICAL, Diana Ugbe, said it would have been easier if government had created an app where people could easily register and then visit NIMC offices to get their slips.

“I have done mine. I came two days ago. That day, the crowd was too much and they said we should come the next day, which was yesterday. The crowd was still much but I am through with the process. However, I still need to come tomorrow morning to get my slip. I am comfortable with the process but I think it will be easier if we can do it on our cell phones such that if you are coming here, it will just be to collect the slip,” she said.

Also at the Ambo Centre of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, Mr. Abdul Mumi Imar said he was asked to pay the sum of N2,000 after paying N50 to get the form.

He said: “When I came to enroll, the first thing they told me was that I have to pay N2,000, which I did. I was not the only person that paid; we were about six in number. The rest of them refused to pay. They were agitating; they were very angry and they said they would not register.

“This process to me is not proper. They have to open more offices, even across our streets. But when you want to collect the slip, you can go to the headquarters to do that. People are not satisfied with what is going on.

“The N2,000 is a bribe because the Minister for Information had said no one should be given money for the registration. Again when you look around, you will see that only few of us are wearing face mask. COVID-19 is real even though some people are saying it is not real.”

At the same centre, Charles Asuquo said: “Today is my first time of coming. I just collected the form for N50 and I met so many people here. I don’t know how long it will take to get to my turn.”

Mr. Kelvin Adedamola, who came with his wife and two children to the Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH) centre, expressed displeasure with the whole process.

He said they had been coming to the centre every day since the Federal Government announced that SIM cards would be blocked if not linked to NIN.

“We did our registration two years ago. All we want is to get our cards and we have been coming here for the past four days now,” he lamented.

Staff at the centres refused to react to the complaints of intending registrants.

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Imo Residents Accuse NIMC Officials Of Extortion, Favouritism
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
THE premises of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in Owerri are not expansive enough to accommodate the multitude of people seeking to be enrolled into the National Identification Number (NIN). When The Guardian visited the office last Tuesday, many intending registrants were seen inside the premises while others were outside the gate struggling to gain entrance. The security officials, however, insisted on orderliness though not without exerting some energy.

Some of the intending enrollees accused the NIMC officials of favouritism, extortion and other irregularities.

One of them, who simply identified herself as Ngozi, said she had suffered in the last three days struggling to obtain her NIN.

She said: “I tell you that we have seen hell trying to have this registration done. This is what we are seeing in Nigeria. We should not have been given this task now that we have this pandemic in place.

“Look at the type of crowd. No social distancing. You do not know those who are the careers or not. This is not the best time for this policy. There are accusations that the officials of the NIMC here in Owerri are favouring some enrollees. Others are said to be parting with some money, about N2,000 before they are registered.”

Another prospective registrant, who identified himself as Okechukwu, also echoed the allegation that the officials were favouring some people.

“If you know anyone in this Commission or you can give something, it is better for you. This is Nigeria where favouritism thrives,” Okechukwu said.

A successful enrollee, who preferred to be simply identified as John, however, said he enrolled without much stress.

His words: “I am lucky to have enrolled. I presented myself, waited for my turn and got enrolled.”

Inside the NIMC enrolment centre in Isolo, Lagos State. PHOTO: TOBI AWODIPE

The State Coordinator of the commission, Livy Uba, was not available when The Guardian sought to speak with him. But some officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, absolved themselves of the allegations of extortion and favouritism, stressing that they were exposed and at the risk of contracting Coronavirus.

They urged the federal and state governments to come to their aid by paying them special allowances and providing them with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

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“There is nothing like extortion, favouritism or special attention to some applicants. We treat people as equals here. I think that people should learn to be patient and wait for their turns,” one of the officials said.

Help Us, We Are Suffering, Plateau Residents Cry Out
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
SEEING a large crowd of people under the scorching sun at Lamingo in Jos North local council area of Plateau State where the National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment was taking place last Wednesday was very pathetic.

Many of the prospective enrollees told The Guardian that they had been gathering at the venue for three or four days from 6.00am without being registered.

They, therefore, pleaded with government to alleviate their sufferings by providing shed for them and creating multiple registration venues.

A Jos resident, the Rev. Prince Joshua Mirem, accompanied his son to the registration centre.

He explained: “I came here with my son because he does not know the way. My problem with the government is that they should have opened more registration centres and not just at NIMC headquarters in Jos here. Thousands of people troop in here very early in the morning and at the end of the day, they will leave for their homes unattended to. They should open other points in different locations of the city to reduce people’s suffering. I don’t like the way people are suffering.”

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A young boy from far away Langtang North, Nanma Decent, said he arrived at the venue at 10.00am, lamenting that he could not tell when he would leave, as many people had not been attended to.

An elderly woman, Madam Naomi, said she was coming for the fifth time but had not been answered.

Victory Mankha Pam said he paid N50 to get the form, lamenting that it was his third day of going there.

He said that he had gone home at 4.00pm on the previous days after queuing from 7.00am.

“They are not attending to us. They will always say we should go and comeback the next day,” he said.

Another intending registrant, Pam Changyang, simply said: “Help us we are suffering. Please, help us.”

Speaking on the challenges impeding the operations of the Commission, the state coordinator of NIMC, Garba Ibrahim Nuhu, stated that apart from unstable electricity and poor internet connectivity, the crowd trooping in to the office on a daily basis was overwhelming.

“We also have enrolment computer systems that are more or less unserviceable,” he added.

Nuhu also said the office has funding challenges.

On why people were required to pay N50 to get the registration form, Nuhu said NIMC had uploaded the form on the internet, adding that those who could not download it were lazy and should be blamed not the Commission.

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Benue Residents Describe Exercise As Ill-timed, Decry Extortion By NIMC Officials
From Joseph Wantu, Makurdi
A FEW days after the staff of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) called off their strike, a mammoth crowd of those seeking to enroll into the NIN has continued to throng its offices in Benue State.

When The Guardian visited the NIMC state headquarters in Makurdi last Wednesday, hundreds of people had gathered there as early as 8.00am.

Many of the intending registrants were heard grumbling that they were being compelled to buy registration forms from people that might have colluded with the NIMC officials to extort money from them.

Many of the people also expressed frustration with the process, noting that they were turned back a day before and had not still been enrolled after several hours.

One of them, George Ilene, advised the government to compel the NIMC to make the registration easier and also free for citizens.

He described as criminal the extortion of N500 from intending registrants, noting that members of the public were not informed that they were going to pay for the form.

Speaking in the same vein, Terhile Gbadeen, told The Guardian that the information available to members of the public was that the exercise was free of charge, wondering why the officials or their proxies were collecting money from them.

“The money the officials of NIMC are collecting is not normal. I will not pay; I am going back home. Let the worst happen. I think the Federal Government should investigate the Commission and bring things to order. Government had told us that registration is free but they are here collecting money through their proxies,” he said.

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A young lady who identified herself as Agoh Doris Sewuese, lamented the hardship the Federal Government was putting Nigerians through, adding that she would pay N500 to get registered even though it was against her will.

Atsor Vande, who came all the from Gwer-East local council area to Makurdi to register (about 47 kilometers away), said all efforts he made to register at his local council failed, adding that the officials were charging as high as N1,500 per person.

Vande wondered why the government would be cautioning against the spread ofCOVID-19 and still make people to gather unreasonably.

“As far as I’m concerned, the exercise is ill timed and another way of exploiting the masses,” Vande added.

However, in a telephone interview with The Guardian to clarify some of the issues raised by intending registrants, the Benue State Coordinator of the NIMC, Engr. John Akpakwu, said the Commission under his watch was enrolling people perfectly but admitted that the crowd overwhelmed the officials.

Akpakwu, who called on the Federal Government to quickly provide them with improved working facilities, maintained that many of the equipment at the disposal of the Commission were obsolete and could not cope with the current work demand.

He further described as false the public outcry that the Commission was selling the data forms for between N500 and N1,500 to unsuspecting enrollees, noting that the forms were accessible through the internet.

“We are not the ones selling the forms; it may be the server operators. This is because of the pressure on our office, intending enrollers would want to go a fast one and buy the forms from the business men outside our office.

“This is because the forms are everywhere in the cyberspace free of charge for everybody to access or download but because of lack of knowledge or whatever reasons, people prefer to buy but not from our office.

“Our only duty is to cross check the information on the form and make necessary correction for final enrollment of the applicants,” he stated.

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Kebbi NIMC Warns Residents Against Fraudsters
From Ahmadu Baba Idris, Birnin Kebbi
THE Kebbi State Coordinator of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Umar Bello Bagudo, has warned residents to be wary of fraudsters who go about parading themselves as agents of the Commission.

Bagudo, who gave the warning while fielding questions from The Guardian in his Office, stated that some people were reportedly parading themselves as agents of the Commission in the state and were charging their victims the sum of N2, 500 to facilitate their registration.

According to him, the rush by many residents to beat the Federal Government’s deadline for NIN registration gave rise to the sharp practice.

“Nigerians are very smart. They go ahead of every situation to shortchange people,” he added.

He urged residents to go to any of the NIMC offices in the 21 local council areas of the state to do their registration without paying a dime.

Bagudo also stated that the NIMC offices across the state were fully complying with the COVID-19 protocols.

“So far, so good. We in Kebbi State are making progress and we hope to record more success before the deadline,” he added.

In Bayelsa, You Either Pay N2,500 or Wait Endlessly, Enrollees Allege
From Julius Osahon, Yenagoa
FOLLOWING the suspension of the strike action by staff of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Bayelsa State residents have again besieged the office of the Commission in Yenagoa, ignoring all known COVID-19 protocols as they struggle to get registered.

Investigations by The Guardian at the registration centre revealed that workers at the centre were making quick money as enrollees were compelled to pay between N2,000 and N2,500 to get registered and collect their temporary NIN immediately.

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It was discovered that those that could not afford to pay the said sum were asked to fill a personal data form and wait for two weeks to collect their NIN.

A security man at the office told The Guardian that for one to get registered and have one’s temporary NIN printed out immediately, one is expected to pay N200 for a personal data form and pay another N2,000, which they prefer to call processing fee.

Some of the enrollees, who spoke with The Guardian, complained that the exercise was very stressful because they had to be at the NIMC office as early as 6:00am to get registered before the closing hour.

An enrollee, who simply identified himself as Oluwaniyi, alleged that those who were able to gain entrance into the premises that day were given numbers after paying the said N2,200, while those who were unable to pay would have to wait endlessly to get enlisted among those that would be attended to in a day.

“I just got my temporary NIN slip printed out for me but before I finally got registered today, I had visited this office for two days before a friend confided in me that he could get it done for me faster if I can afford to pay N2,200,” he said.

When contacted, the Principal Manager of NIMC centre in Yenagoa, Mr. Ibiba Bobmanuel, said his office was finically handicapped, adding that he had been given the mandate to source for funds to run the operations of the Commission.

“Since December last year, I have not been given a kobo to operate. We barely have public power to run our operation. So, we are compelled to source for funds to power the place.

“However, the story that we are collecting money from those coming to register for the first time is not true. That service is totally free but we have services people must have to pay for.

“The services people have to pay for include N500 for NIN slip re-issue; N30,000 for request for written certificate/confirmation of identity; N15,000 for correction of date of birth; N1,000 for re-issuance of PIN for issued card and N5,000 for card re-issuance/replacement,” he explained.

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Nigerians Recount Tales Of Woe As NIMC Justifies Payment For Data Correction
IN all of Mr. Ajayi Adekola’s documents, November 5, 1952, is his date of birth. So, he was surprised when he could not complete the matching of his National Identification Number (NIN) number with that of his mobile phone number. He went to the NIMC office and he was told there was a discrepancy between the date of birth on his NIN and BVN. Adekola said the error was the date of birth on his BVN. So, he felt he could go to the bank to rectify it. But he was told it could only be done by NIMC as the data had been synchronised.

To effect the change at NIMC, he was told to bring a number of documents that included BVN validation page, birth certificate or age declaration, old national ID card, Voter card, driver’s licence, WAEC certificate, primary school leaving certificate (compulsory), international passport, any good photo ID that has correct date of birth and evidence of payment of N15,000 into the Federal Government account.

According to Adekola, the requirements were just too many. He added that the pain of getting the document was one thing while effecting the change was another. To him, the Federal Government was punishing Nigerians unnecessarily with the exercise.

Like Adekola, Margaret was unperturbed when many Nigerians were apprehensive following government’s order that all Nigerians must match their NIN with their SIM card by February 9. She was unworried because she had registered and got her NIN. But since last week, Margaret has been running from pillar to post because her bank account has been blocked due to difference in her name on the bank account and NIN card.

She said her name is Adewole Margaret, which was what was registered on her bank account but Adejesuwole Margaret was what was registered on her national identity card.

According to her, it was not her making. She claimed that when she saw the error on the print out of her registration slip, she alerted the enroller at Ijaye where she did the registration but she was told not to bother, as it was the number that was important.

To effect the change, she was told by the NIMC to present her birth certificate, primary and secondary school certificates and a court affidavit. She has done all that, but still she could not complete the process for days. The day The Guardian accosted her, she claimed she had visited the Lagos NIMC Office thrice with another request that she should come the next day.

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Chiboy was also accosted at the Lagos NIMC office, where he claimed he had been going through a horrific time because he needed to correct the error in his surname. Chima was wrongfully inputted instead of Chiboy during his NIN registration.

A staff of Lagos NIMC, who spoke under anonymity, said what the NIMC does was correction and not name change.

“We only correct error. But before it is corrected, the person has to bring evidence. We go as far as asking for primary school certificate, secondary school certificate to get the authentication of the information about to be corrected. Other documents are voters card, drivers license and we check all the dates on regulatory identity cards, before we grant approval for change.

“Different correction in our database comes with different fees. And the charges are not because our agency is set up to generate revenue but to serve as deterrent, so that the registrants would be careful when next they are doing it. Enrollers often insist that the enrollees check their information and records. It is after that the enroller can send the data. Most people, because they are in a hurry, they will not even care to look at the information diligently. If you check our form, the responsibility lies in the person supplying the data.

“So, it is when other documents of evidence are brought that it is approved and forwarded to the management for correction of the error or omission. We need to be careful because identity theft comes in different forms.”

He disclosed that his agency observed that most of the errors originate from the banks while many were registering for BVN.

“There are different things people should understand when they are doing registration. Some people will bring four, five names but the standard is three names – surname, first name and the middle name. But some people will say they have other names. There is provision for it in our system. From the print out they may not be able to see it, but it is registered in the database. We do verification and authentication,” he added.

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