47m subscribers’ fate hangs in balance as NIMC deadline ends

The fate of over 47 million Nigerian mobile phone subscribers will be determined by whether the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) had enough capacity to register them before the Tuesday midnight deadline to block the lines.

Adebayo Gbenga, president, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), told BusinessDay that ALTON has since handed over 47 million unique mobile lines at an average of three SIM cards per individual to NIMC. That works out to about 140 million lines. The phone lines are expected to be verified by NIMC before the deadline. The telecom operators, therefore, expect that by the end of the deadline there should be about 140 million mobile lines linked with the National Identification Number (NIN).

But that could be expecting too much from the commission. Since the order to block people’s SIM cards was issued in December, NIMC has only successfully linked 2 million lines.

“By order of the Federal Government, today is given as the last chance to register your NIMC or face the wrath of what comes next,” NIMC tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

The pressure to beat the deadline has seen many Nigerians having to bribe officials of NIMC who are exploiting the situation. Many others have been told to check back in months to come.

A Twitter user, @mekkidgreat, said he went to a registration location at Festac on Monday. The officials there told him to either pay N10,000 so they will do a quick registration for him or wait till September 18 to complete it.

Michael Samooguru, another Twitter user, said he went to three registration centres in Lagos, two of the centres told him to come back by March while another centre located at Ikotun, in Alimosho LGA, told him to come back in April.

“I was about going to Nsukka Local Government to get my registration done when a colleague of mine who went the previous day told me he was told to check back by May,” Taiwo Keshinro, who lives in Nsukka tweeted.

According to the Federal Government, the penalty for failing to obtain a NIN will not only be the blocking of SIM cards but would include among other challenges like inability to open individual and/or personal bank accounts, apply for a passport, register a business entity at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and will not be eligible to apply for driver’s licence.

As a result, millions of Nigerians have been worried about the losses they may incur due to the NIN registration deadline, which many have argued is too short considering the gap in the country’s infrastructure.

“A government that couldn’t organically get all its own federal and state civil servants (and their families) to register with NIMC really hoped to use threats to register all 180 million of us and succeed?” Ayo Sogunro, lawyer and human rights advocate, tweeted on Tuesday. “There is a serious lack of critical and creative thinking in this Buhari regime.”

Top on the list of what many Nigerians are worried about include:

Financial damages

With an already dampened consumers’ wallet amid poor economic growth, many Nigerians fear they may be unfortunate to incur losses due to the procedure and stringent guidelines around the NIN registration.

“If you misplace your SIM card in this period and you are without NIN, chances are, you will be without it for a while and that would mean probably losing some businesses,” a Lagos-based businessman told BusinessDay.

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The fear of the businessman is similar to hundreds of other Nigerians, as some have already been affected by the decision by Isa Pantami, minister of technology and digital economy, compelling Nigerians under the pain of losing their phone numbers, to register their SIM cards in a matter of weeks when previous efforts have failed since 2007.

“My mental state is a huge mess right now,” Nonye writes on Twitter. “I have cried from frustration, anger, and pain. I don’t know what to do. I feel so helpless.”

According to Nonye, she was on her way home Thursday evening around Yaba, in Lagos when she was attacked by four men, one wielding a cutlass. They collected her phone, wallet, ATM cards, and even yanked off her necklace leaving her with bruises.

The next day, she succeeded in blocking her ATM cards, but only after her bank balances had been emptied. Then she went to her network provider to retrieve her SIM card and was told the Federal Government has banned SIM retrieval due to the NIN registration.

Exposure to COVID-19

In a bid to beat the deadlines, subscribers who did not have the NIN had thronged the headquarters of the NIMC causing chaos and overcrowding of the offices. This is despite the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19 in the country.

Some health experts have even blamed the crowd at the registration centres as one of the factors responsible for the rising wave of coronavirus in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, with the most GSM penetration.

From recording daily confirmed cases of as low as 145 on November 30, 2020, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, joined the rest of the world experiencing the second wave of the virus as cases jumped by over 100 percent to 1,617 as of Monday, January 18, 2021.

Boss Mustapha, the chairman of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, had at a national briefing expressed displeasure over the violations and neglect of the non-pharmaceutical safety measures.

The minister of state for health explained that he was not pleased over the behaviour of people seeking the NIN who overcrowded the headquarters of the NIMC.

“I don’t feel good looking at the picture where people are gathered in multitude; it is like a super-spreader event, which we don’t like. But I’m also aware that the relevant ministry which is the communications and digital economy is looking at this,” the minister said.

To make matters worse, the NIMC unit of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) directed members to embark on strike over poor welfare package, lack of tools, and risk of coronavirus exposure. But the workers have since returned as government plans to close registration on Tuesday.

Extortion

Knowing that the Federal Government has insisted on enforcing the deadline given for the registration of all SIM with valid NIN, many Nigeria have since the first day of the registration throng the various NIN registration centres to get their numbers.

Recall that in December 2020, the Federal Government issued a directive to all mobile network providers to block telephone lines that are not linked with a valid NIN number.

Many officials and some others impersonating NIMC have been taking advantage of the rush to demand money before registration, this is despite the Federal Government saying the process was free.

Checks by BusinessDay show that officials demand as much as N5,000 in some centres across the country before agreeing to process NIN registration.

The fate of over 47 million Nigerian mobile phone subscribers will be determined by whether the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) had enough capacity to register them before the Tuesday midnight deadline to block the lines. Adebayo Gbenga, president, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), told BusinessDay that ALTON has since handed over 47 million unique mobile lines at an average of three SIM cards per individual to NIMC. That works out to about 140 million lines. The phone lines are expected to be verified by NIMC before the deadline. The telecom operators, therefore, expect that by the end of the deadline there should be about 140 million mobile lines linked with the National Identification Number (NIN). But that could be expecting too much from the commission. Since the order to block people’s SIM cards was issued in December, NIMC has only successfully linked 2 million lines. “By order of the Federal Government, today is given as the last chance to register your NIMC or face the wrath of what comes next,” NIMC tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. The pressure to beat the deadline has seen many Nigerians having to bribe officials of NIMC who are exploiting the situation. Many others have been told to check back in months to come. A Twitter user, @mekkidgreat, said he went to a registration location at Festac on Monday. The officials there told him to either pay N10,000 so they will do a quick registration for him or wait till September 18 to complete it. Michael Samooguru, another Twitter user, said he went to three registration centres in Lagos, two of the centres told him to come back by March while another centre located at Ikotun, in Alimosho LGA, told him to come back in April. “I was about going to Nsukka Local Government to get my registration done when a colleague of mine who went the previous day told me he was told to check back by May,” Taiwo Keshinro, who lives in Nsukka tweeted. According to the Federal Government, the penalty for failing to obtain a NIN will not only be the blocking of SIM cards but would include among other challenges like inability to open individual and/or personal bank accounts, apply for a passport, register a business entity at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and will not be eligible to apply for driver’s licence. As a result, millions of Nigerians have been worried about the losses they may incur due to the NIN registration deadline, which many have argued is too short considering the gap in the country’s infrastructure. “A government that couldn’t organically get all its own federal and state civil servants (and their families) to register with NIMC really hoped to use threats to register all 180 million of us and succeed?” Ayo Sogunro, lawyer and human rights advocate, tweeted on Tuesday. “There is a ...


The fate of over 47 million Nigerian mobile phone subscribers will be determined by whether the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) had enough capacity to register them before the Tuesday midnight deadline to block the lines. Adebayo Gbenga, president, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), told BusinessDay that ALTON has since handed over 47 million unique mobile lines at an average of three SIM cards per individual to NIMC. That works out to about 140 million lines. The phone lines are expected to be verified by NIMC before the deadline. Th...


The fate of over 47 million Nigerian mobile phone subscribers will be determined by whether the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) had enough capacity to register them before the Tuesday midnight deadline to block the lines. Adebayo Gbenga, president, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), told BusinessDay that ALTON has since handed over 47 mil...


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