By Dare Idowu
Workers of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) continued the enrolment exercise for the National Identity Number (NIN) on Monday after a two-day strike.
In continuation of its coverage of the registration process in Lagos, Channels Television crew visited more than seven local governments.
While the process may have been stalled, the challenges faced by enrolees and even the NIMC workers are not likely to fade away anytime soon.
“Enrol once and be identified for life,” that was the footnote of the signpost that welcomes enrolees to the agency’s office nationwide.
But getting registered for – a process which the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, said should take less than 10 minutes – has left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Nigerians.
A Temporary Setback
A look inside the NIMC office in Alausa, and all seemed cool and calm, but outside the premises was where the chaos lived.
From the crowd of mostly angry applicants who throng enrolment centres on a daily basis, there were obvious gaps, enough to make one wonder whether the NIMC was properly set up for the national assignment.
The exercise was temporarily disrupted when the Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASSN) of NIMC embarked on a strike over several challenges, including staff exposure to COVID-19 risks, lack of personal protective equipment, irregularities in promotion, and poor funding, among other issues.
To limit the number of people coming to their offices, the agency announced in December that enrolment would be done through a booking system.
Despite the step taken by the NIMC, officials decried that most applicants failed to follow the instruction as they would rather show up at the enrolment centres hoping to get the process done as fast as possible.
But the situation was entirely different at the local government offices where the control of the process appeared to have slipped off the agency’s hands.
Officials of the local governments tried to create a semblance of orderliness, but the bottlenecks were very visible.
Only one computer was kept in a usually dark and discreet part of the local council – with a large number of people waiting in line to be registered.
Breach Of Procedure?
Benard Keneth told Channels Television that he had been going to Alimosho Local Government for almost a week to get registered without making any headway.
He claimed that the officials were intentionally slowing down the process to execute their extortion plan.
Benard’s complaint was similar to the situation in Agege, Kosofe, Surulere, Mushin, Ikeja, Yaba and other local governments visited.
Channels Television discovered that the process may have been hijacked by middlemen who were on hand to assist those who want to fast-track the process.
This breach of procedure breeds more frustration for enrolees, especially for those who genuinely wait in line.
In December, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ordered all telecommunications company to suspend sale, registration and activation of new Subscriber Identification Modules (SIMs).
This followed Dr Pantami’s directive that the NCC should embark on another audit of the nation’s Subscriber Registration Database.
The Federal Government believes harmonising all phone numbers through the NIN will help to curtail and checkmate the lingering security challenges in some parts of the country.
While many have faulted the timing and execution of the directive, the government insisted there was no better time for the digital identity ecosystem framework to be executed.
Those tabling the timing argument have reservations, especially with the total COVID-19 figures rising by the day in the wake of the second wave of the virus.
According to the NIMC, no fewer than 15 million people with bank verification number (BVN) have been linked with the National Identity Number.
As the exercise continues, the agency is expected to overcome the data integration challenges and issues of touting, extortion, and COVID-19 concerns.