• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Telcos to the rescue as NIN deadline approaches

NIMC-registration

Telecommunication operators in Nigeria have been enlisted to help register millions of Nigerians who risk losing access to services such as banking, phone communication, international passport, or even sit for JAMB examinations should they fail to get a National Identification Number (NIN) by February 9.

A visit by BusinessDay to the branches of some of the telecom operators confirmed an earlier report that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has licensed them to generate the NIN for their customers.

At an Airtel branch located at Apapa Shopping Mall in Lagos, a staff told BusinessDay that subscribers can come from Monday, February 1, to commence their registration.

An MTN staff at a location also within Apapa said the company now has the mandate to register customers but was yet to know the exact date the registration would commence. The telco later explained that it was still putting things in place to commence with the NIN registration exercise at its various centres.

“We will communicate this soon,” the company said in response to an enquiry on the subject.

Globacom also said it was yet to start NIN registration at any of its outlets and did not give any indication as to when it is likely to begin.

Several efforts by BusinessDay to get NIMC to confirm the development was not successful, but a report by Punch said Aliyu Aziz, director-general, NIMC, had given telcos the licence to issue identity numbers. The licence is also given to “private and public” organisations to provide NIN.

The move is possibly a realisation by the commission that it would not be able to meet the deadline for registration if it continued to carry out the registration alone. This is even after the NIMC has provided registration across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. BusinessDay’s investigations found that Kano has the most registration centres with 60 locations, followed by Lagos with 43.

However, most of the locations visited in Lagos have one functional laptop and one printer operated by at most two NIMC officials.

It would be recalled that officials of NIMC had earlier in January declared strike over lopsided salary structure and the inability of the commission to protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the strike was called off a day after it commenced. On Tuesday, members of the union that declared the strike went to apologise to the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy and promised to embrace dialogue over strike action. They also promised to mobilise all members of the union back to work.

However, many Nigerians continue to overwhelm the registration centres with many saying they come out as early as 4am only to spend the whole day trying to get registered and not succeeding.

“I have been at the NIMC centre at Yaba Tech since 5am today and all their staff do is to extort people before responding to them,” said a Nigerian who simply wants to identify as Bouqui.

At another location on Lagos Island, a 73-year-old man said he was denied registration because he could not pay bribes to the officials.

Also, not every location listed on the NIMC website is functional. Eti Osa, a local government that has more than one centre, only has the secretariat of the LGA open for registration.

“Somolu LGA has one functional computer for NIN registration. The printer broke down two weeks ago. Over 350 people come daily to register, some arrive as early as 4am. NIMC staff arrive at 8am, register less than 30 people,” a BusinessDay staff who visited the location on Thursday said.

Broken-down equipment is a story that resonates with many other centres across the country. Some eyewitnesses have told BusinessDay that in some locations people only come to collect dates because the officials claim the equipment is not functional.

“I was asked to return in March 2021,” one eyewitness recalled. Some were told to come back in December 2021.

Beyond giving ridiculous dates are the persistent cases of extortion. Williams Smith, who went to register at a centre in Lagos, said he was asked to pay N15,000 to help him register quickly.

“Why will the government mandate the citizens to register for NIN and those officials there are now demanding money from us? They charge us N5,000 before they could register us for the NIN in Ijebu Ode LGA, Ogun State,” Ajenifuja Abiola, a medical biochemist, said.