BY CHIMA AKWAJA |
Reports of activities of touts in connivance with some officials of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and some of its licenced partners, to extort money from Nigerians before they can be enrolled for the National Identification Number (NIN) is a situation that merits investigation.
In December 2020, when this exercise commenced, the honourable minister of communications and digital economy, Dr. Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami made clear that, “Enrolment for the National Identification Number (NIN) is free of charge, and on no occasion should anyone pay to obtain an enrolment form or to have their biometrics captured.”
He even went a step further to direct the immediate suspension of staff involved in extortion of applicants at the NIMC offices across the country.
However, there’s a snag, the directive on curbing extortion of innocent Nigerians, seems to have fallen on deaf ears!
A few days ago, our investigations across NIN enrolment centres nationwide showed that enrollees were made to part with between N1,000 and N5,000, for quick access to the centres and immediate enrolment.
When I contacted the head of corporate communications, NIMC, Mr. Kayode Adegoke, he referred me back to his boss’s recent statement.
Last week after the Federal Executive Council meeting by Engr. Aliyu Abubakar, Aziz Abubakar, the director-general of NIMC, reacting to the alleged widespread extortion of enrollees by registration officials and touts repeated what the minister said, that NIN is free for all citizens and no one should pay any person for it, adding that it’s a crime of the giver and also the taker.
“All our staff that are found wanting we discipline them. But we are not in charge of what happens outside the centres. If there are touts, the security agencies are also working on that and they’ve been catching a lot of people,” he said.
Technology industry professionals believe that if NIMC and security agencies swing into action and make scapegoats of some of the touts, partners and staff involved in this extortion, it will serve as deterrent to others.
For the managing director of New Horizons Learning Systems Nigeria Limited, Mr. Tim Akano, “Government should investigate the allegations and if found to be true, make some arrests and charge them to court accordingly. If nothing is done, Nigerians being shortchanged in the NIN-registration will feel that government is tacitly backing its officials behind the extortion.”
Based on the updates of the NIN-registration process, over 51 million people have so far been assigned NINs. The current number of monthly enrolments has increased significantly to about 2.6 million registrations. If this extortion is not stopped, it will fester and the pockets of those involved will continue to be illegally enriched.