As the October 31 deadline date for the linkage of National Identity Number (NIN) with Subscribers Identification Number (SIM) approaches, chaotic scenes have intensified at registration centres, especially the telecommunications outlets nationwide.
This is even as registration agents, at some of the telecoms sales outlets and National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) centres, have continued to extort Nigerians waiting to get registered.
The Guardian’s visit to some of the service outlets, including that of Airtel, Globacom and MTN, confirmed the return of crowds and extortion of between N2000 and N3000 per applicant for the service.
At Airtel service outlets at Okota and Isolo road, the agents, who gave their names as Bridget and Temidayo claimed that the N2000 was the registration fee. Subscribers in large numbers were seen waiting to be captured and registered.
One of the agents, Bridget, when queried that the NIN registration ought to be free, said, “the order to collect money is from above.”
At MTN office, Fatai Atere road, Mushin, though not overcrowded, subscribers experienced some delays because there were issues relating to the confirmation of some Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), especially those that start with 221/222. Some frustrated subscribers were seen sleeping while waiting their turn.
A subscriber, Ngozi Nwangu, claimed that she got to the MTN office as early as 7: 00a.m. to link her SIM with NIN. She disclosed that so many people, out of frustration, have gone back to their homes due to network hitches.
“At 3: 00p.m., I am still here waiting for the BVN network to come up so that it can be confirmed and my SIM can be subsequently linked to the NIN, but there are issues with that. I still don’t know how long I am going to be here,” she stated.
At MTN Opebi office, the crowds were much but they were attended to in an orderly manner.
At the Globacom office on Airport Road, subscribers were seen waiting to be captured and registered adequately.
Already, a Public Affairs Analyst, Majeed Dahiru, has called on the Federal Government and the NIMC to urgently address the overwhelming reports of extortion of NIN applicants.
Dahiru, in broadcast, noted that the extortion of citizens at the NIN enrolment centres was not a surprise, but the government was expected to have put in place emergency measures against NIMC officials perpetrating fraud.
He asked those at the helm of affairs at NIMC and the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to exterminate all forms of corruption going on in NIN registration across the country. While underscoring the importance of accurate data in the planning and development of Nigeria, he said that corruption was undermining the process of NIN registration and linkage to SIM cards.
“Extortion of citizens is a huge compromise on our national security. And I had expected an emergency measure to curb this menace. It is a menace; we may not know the full implications today until a little later when the negative impact of this issue begins to manifest in our national security negatively.
“It has national security implications for Nigeria. We are talking about National Identity, SIM card registration, obtaining a Nigerian passport. Now, if the officials involved are only after money, it means anybody can come into Nigeria through any of our porous borders, play the necessary game, and obtain anything that makes and certifies him as a Nigerian citizen,” he stated.
Efforts to get NIMC Spokesperson, Kayode Adegoke, to comment, was not successful, as he promised to get back on the matter, but as at press time, he was yet to revert.
However, it will be recalled that earlier in the year the NIMC had informed that the enrolment for the NIN was free.
The NIMC also warned those cashing in amid the ongoing NIN registration nationwide to desist as they risk seven years in jail when caught.
The Commission, in a notice posted on its social media platforms, encouraged Nigerians to report cases of extortion for onward prosecution.
The notice titled, ‘NIN Enrolment Is Free’, read, “The punishment for extortion if convicted is seven years imprisonment as stipulated in sections 14, 20, & 21, of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act and Sections 10 & 12 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.”
MEANWHILE, the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMs) has called for a two-month extension of the NIN-SIM linkage exercise.
The President of NATCOMS, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said extension beyond October 31, would allow for the full implementation of the security policy. He said that the extension would also enable those areas where telecoms services have been shut down to also have a chance to get registered.
He said, “We have been at it for close to one year now. They started by giving a six-week deadline, and on and on till March, then June, and now October 31.
“In view of the current security situation, which necessitated the policy, we want the deadline to be extended to the end of the year, so that from January 1, there won’t be any excuse. But I also would like a situation where subscribers should take advantage of the remaining days left in this window.”
Ogunbanjo confirmed the return of crowds to registration centres for NIN, stressing that they are now jam-packed because the deadline is about to expire.
“Unfortunately, the centres are now jam-packed. I was at one on Friday. Another two months won’t be bad. We are pleading for a two-month extension – November and December – so that full implementation of the security policy can start in January,” he said.