Nigerians are pushing for the extension of the deadline fixed by the federal government for the integration of SIM cards following the frustrations and hassles associated with the exercise.
Many Nigerians are of the view that the ongoing integration of SIM cards with the National Identification Number (NIN), is unduly rushed and time-consuming.
It is recalled that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directed Nigerians to link their Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) cards to their National Identification Number (NIN).
Unfortunately, as of the time the directive was handed down, not more than about 40 million Nigerians had been captured by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) due to some factors occasioned by bottlenecks associated with the capturing system.
One, the process is time-consuming and one may have to wait for hours on the queue. Again, some were quick to point to an older exercise in 2006, wondering why government should embark on another exercise now. Some in this category pointed to various registration exercises, like SIM registration exercise by telecoms operators, the NCC and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) among many others.
Some Nigerians complained that they were discouraged to register before now because some officials of NIMC in some locations around the country were demanding bribes before registering members of the public.
In December when the directive was first proclaimed, the government gave a two-weeks ultimatum, which was later extended till today and probably February for those who have not registered at all. This has led to stampedes in virtually all NIMC’s offices throughout the country.
Probably to compound the problem, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) also announced that those aspiring to get drivers’ licence must provide their NIN before taking the licence. This is in addition to an equal directive by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) that one must provide NIN to get international passport.
While Nigerians are asking the government to extend the registration exercise, it appears the government is determined to stick to the deadline.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami in a recent television interview, said that Nigerians are to be blamed for the ongoing rowdy exercise to link their SIM cards to the National Identity Numbers (NIN).
Pantami said that the government gave everyone about 12 months to complete the exercise but many ignored the directive.
He argued that linking SIM cards to NIN was designed to be a smooth process which turned rowdy because people chose not to comply with government’s directive.
“The deadline was announced since February 2020 – the first day that the policy was announced in Nigeria was on 4th February 2020.
“So, it was announced since then that every citizen who owns a SIM card should obtain a national identity number and submit same to the mobile line operator.
“Citizens, instead of going to obtain their national identity number, keep debating…they couldn’t comply.”
But many are wondering why government would remain adamant considering the obvious dangers associated with the gathering of people in NIMC’s offices especially in the face of COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country and other inconveniences that are inherent in the process.
A subscriber, Ahmed Musa, who spoke with Nigerian Tribune on the issue, said he was yet to come to terms with the directive.
He said the government had no consideration for the welfare of the people and that all the layers of security put in place no longer have any meaning if the government goes ahead with the proclamation.
But a senior government official, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minister of State, Health, also in a television programme echoed the sentiments expressed by many Nigerians said: “It is displeasing to see crowds gather at the National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC) offices. Nobody feels good. I don’t feel good looking at the picture where people are gathered in multitudes. It’s like super spreader events which we don’t like. We have a duty as government to ensure that people are protected; we also have a duty to ensure people comply within the limit of what is good for the society at large.”
According to Mr Ike Nnamani, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), a review of the exercise so far should be conducted involving all the key stakeholders to ascertain the success of the registration so far and also the progress of the Integration of the NIMC database and that of the telecom operators. Understanding that there is a rapid spreading of COVID-19 pandemic in the country at the moment is also key in taking a decision if the exercise should be extended to allow Nigerians register more safely
An ICT stakeholder, who craved anonymity however, said it is the belief of every well-meaning Nigerians that the exercise will be extended in the interest of every Nigerian and the government in particular.
This story contains information from Tribune