Fraudulent registration by some of the special agents appointed by National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to fast-track the process and server downtime at the commission are slowing down SIM card-to-NIN linking exercise ahead of the December 31 deadline, LEADERSHIP Sunday investigation can now reveal.
No fewer than 70 million Nigerians are still struggling to obtain their National Identification Number (NIN).
As of October 31, 2021, NIMC had issued 66 million unique NINs, while there are indications that the commission may have further registered additional four million Nigerians between then and now, hence, pushing the figure to about 70 million NINs so far issued.
And with about 140 million active mobile phone users in the country, it means 70 million phone users are still battling to get their national identity numbers, and may not be able to use their mobile phones in the new year unless NIMC extends the current deadline.
In recent weeks, NIN registration and issuance have been slower owing to NIMC server downtime. To this end, those whose NIN had already been issued could not ascertain this and print for NIN-Sim linkage, while a majority whose enrolment had been done at NIMC enrollment centres are yet to have their data processed as a result of this.
Similarly, LEADERSHIP Sunday investigation revealed that NIN enrollment has become a lucrative business for racketeers as well as NIN enrollment centres as they taxed desperate Nigerians who want to get their identity number by all means, between N2,000 and N3,000 for a service that ought to be free.
These hitches, findings also revealed, have prevented some retirees access to their pension entitlements after retirement, as they are expected to submit their data to their Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), of which NIN is a major requirement, before they could get their pensions.
Several months after retirement, some are yet to get identity numbers that is crucial to getting their pensions.
Similarly, this development is affecting the uptake of Micro Pension Plan (MPP) as NIN is also a major requirement for its subscription.
According to NIMC, enrolment for every Nigerian and legal resident from the age of 16 years and above is free at the accredited enrolment centres in the 36 states in Nigeria.
All that is required is to walk into the nearest NIMC Enrolment Centre with Bank Verification Number (BVN), if available, and any of the original and valid supporting documents which are old national ID card, driver’s licence, voter’s card (temporary or permanent), Nigerian international passport, certificate of origin, attestation letter from a prominent ruler in your community, birth certificate, declaration of age and government staff ID card, among others.
But when LEADERSHIP Sunday visited some of the NIN registration outlets in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and some urban centres across the country, the reality on ground was entirely different, as Nigerians who cannot wait for the crowds at the accredited NIN registration centres had to pay as much as N3,000 at the so-called ‘special centres’ for their NIN registration.
According to a businessman in Lagos, Mr James Sele, this is just too much, as not all Nigerians can afford it.
To him, the special centres is a welcome development, as it will encourage Nigerians who work from Mondays to Fridays to get their NIN registration done at their convenience, but paying as high as N3,000 (for registration that is supposed to be free) is just not fair especially to Nigerians many of who can hardly make ends meet..
Sele said, while recommending that “government who set up the special centres should be the one paying them, not Nigerians.”
To a secondary school student, Ada Nwofor, it is disheartening to know that one has to pay N1,500, if he does not want to stay on queue even at the accredited centres like Kosofe local government council, Lagos State.
Nwofor told LEADERSHIP Sunday that she had been coming to Kosofe Lagos state since October 2021 for her NIN registration, but it had never gotten to her turn, simply because she did not have N1,500 to bribe the officials at the council.
“Initially I was frustrated, but because I need the NIN for my JAMB registration, I had to keep going until it finally got to my turn, which was on the 3rd of December, 2021,” she added.
When asked how much she paid? Nwafor said: “When it finally got to my turn, I had to pay N500 for the printing of the NIN slip. So, if you have money, your money will work and speak for you, but people like me who don’t have money had to go through the rigorous process before it gets to our turn.”
Dada Fausat suffered a similar fate, as she paid N2,000 at Oke-Odo Local council secretariat in Lagos, before she could enroll for NIN. Even at that, she said, she had to wait for six weeks before she finally got her NIN on Thursday, owing majorly to NIMC server downtime.
On why special centres are charging Nigerians for NIN registration, an owner of one of the special centres in Lagos, who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday anonymously, disclosed that they paid a sum of N1.4 million before NIMC gave them the licence to operate as agents.
“With the N1.4 million, we were given login details to enable us have access to NIMC website and enrol Nigerians for NIN registration. For me, I charge only N700 for first time and within one to seven days, their slip with NIN number, will be ready for pickup.
“If you have issue with name or date of birth, we contact someone from NIMC to do it for us. My contact person charges up to N30,000 to N40,000. Meanwhile, at NIMC website, it is supposed to be N15,000.
“I need to recoup my money, hence I charge Nigerians. Three months ago, I charged up to N1,500, but now I have reduced the fee to N700. Some of us still charge up to N3,000, depending on your location,” he explained.
Despite the money paid to some of these special agents for NIN registration, Mrs Olamide Ayodeji tells LEADERSHIP Sunday that they are finding it difficult to link some of their customers’ SIM to NIN because their names had been captured by NIMC.
“Majority of our customers who are having this problem, registered at the special centres. They were given a slip with NIN, but if we log into NIMC database, they have not been captured. We don’t know if it is the fault of the special agents or NIMC. For us, it has really slowed down business recently and we can only plead with NIMC to rectify the problem,” Ayodeji said.
Meanwhile, speaking at the 2021 Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp) media parley in Lagos at the weekend, the head, Surveillance, National Pension Commission (PenCom), Mr Ehimeme Ohioma, said there is an arrangement the pension industry had with NIMC whereby the staff of NIMC are present in Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) office to register pension contributors, server downtime is a major problem.
This, she said, is affecting the data recapturing exercise of the pension industry of which NIN is a major requirement. This, she added, also affects the uptake of micro pension plan as prospective subscribers are struggling to get their NIN.
She urged NIMC to rectify some of the lapses in the enrolment process to ensure that people, especially, contributors can get their identity numbers seamlessly.
Earlier, a statement on October 30, 2021, jointly signed by both the director of public affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ike Adinde, and head of Corporate Communications, NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, quoted the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, saying that the review of the progress of the exercise indicated that over 66 million unique NIN have been issued an indication of progress achieved in the ongoing NIN-SIM linkage.
“However, a significant part of the populace is yet to be registered into the National Identity Database (NIDB), which may be due to some challenges which the federal government has looked into and has made efforts to alleviate, hence the need to extend the deadline,” NIMC stated.
According to NCC and NIMC, as of October 30, 2021, there were over 9,500 enrolment systems and over 8,000 NIN enrolment centres within and outside the country, which have significantly eased the NIN enrolment process and subsequent linkage of NIN to SIM.
The statement explained that the NIN-SIM verification process is supporting the government’s drive to develop Nigeria’s digital economy, strengthen our ability to protect our cyberspace and support the security agencies.
According to the statement, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously approved the extension to accommodate the yearnings of the populace and make it easier for its citizens within and outside the country, and legal residents to obtain the NIN and link it with their SIM.
“The federal government will ensure that all innocent, law abiding citizens and residents will not lose access to their phone lines as long as they obtain and link their NIN. Government will also continue to provide an enabling environment for investors in the telecommunications sector,” it stressed.
Efforts made by LEADERSHIP Sunday to get reactions from NIMC on this development failed as messages and calls made to the mobile phone of the commission’s spokesperson, Mr. Kayode Adegoke, were not answered by the time of writing this report.