By Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
No one would believe that enrolment of citizens by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), could be easily hijacked by extortionists. Their victims are majorly those struggling to beat the March 31, 2022, deadline for the NIN-SIM verification or trying to obtain the NIN.
Daily Sun had a first hand experience when it visited an enrolment centre at the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Wuse Zone 7, Abuja. It was discovered that those ready to bribe their way in were treated like VIPs. Their requests were fast tracked to the detriment of others on the queue under the scorching sun for hours.
Once they parted with the agreed sum, staff would usher him or her in, totally unconcerned about the frustrated crowd that groaned in loud disapproval.
The development attracted touts whose duties were to profile the visitors and identify those likely to be loaded with cash. They would then sell the idea of a fast track service and the attendant fee to be paid.
The minimum was N5,000 regardless of the service being sought, payable
in cash or electronically. To reprint lost slips costs N5,000 and you must be able to identify the computer you were captured on. Failure to do that means you might never get it reprinted even after the payment.
Name change and corrections also cost N5,000, aside the statutory charges paid to the government via Remita. Enrolment forms hitherto free were sold for N100 each.
Buoyant visitors parted with as much as N10,000. This was particularly for those who desperately needed the National Identity Number (NIN) to process their international passports and other government documents.
Another set of vulnerable Nigerians are students who need the NIN to register for the Unified Matriculation Examination (UME). They were billed less.
In a country of about 210 million people, only 66 million Nigerians were enrolled on the platform as at December 31, 2021.
The situation at Wuse Zone 7 was not any different from another enrolment centre along the Airport Road, close to Lugbe Market.
There, the crowd was huge and restive. This, perhaps, explained why some muscular men were hired as agents to maintain order.
By 2pm, the enrolment centre was shut to fresh visitors as the officials insisted they have attained the number required for daily operations.
Heavily pregnant women and those with babies wailed uncontrollably to be admitted. Physically-challenged also wept for attention but the agents were only available for those with money.
Lamenting her sad experience, Mrs Judith Akinde described the centre as a hub of trauma: “I went there to reprint my son’s slip that was lost recently. After waiting for several hours and it was still nowhere close to my turn, I had to beckon on one of the men who I earlier noticed was organising the crowd to know why the queue was so slow and some people where going in without joining the queue.
“He told me he could help me hasten the process and print the slip within an hour if I was willing to pay N5,000. I tried to make himreduce the price but he remained adamant. I eventually paid the money because we were tired of standing under the scorching sun. I also needed to return to work.
“When we got inside, however, the enrolment staff said we must identify the particular system used to register him when he was first enrolled. We spent hours trying to identify the computer but to no avail. I had to call his uncle that brought him for the enrolment to help out. Luckily, his uncle was in town, so he drove to the centre and identified the computer. That was how the day was saved.”
Unmi lamented how she visited the centre for almost a week without success: “I am here for name change. It took me three days to be finally let in. Each time I came they would close for the day and send us away before getting to my turn. After getting the print out and paying at the bank through Remita, I am back here to effect the change and it is a difficult task spanning many days.”
Amaechi Anakwe of RayPower’s Political Platform said: “The NIN is actually ruining our lives. Your problems start after enrolment. You may get the national identification number NIN after a few days. But where your problem gets complex is when you go to any of the offices that made NIN compulsory before you can get any service.
“For instance, before you buy a new telephone line, you must have NIN.
Before you open a bank account, you must have NIN. Before you get a renew driver’s licence, you must have NIN. Before you get a new passport or renew existing one, you must have NIN.
“When you’re enrolled and given NIN you go to any of these places, they tell you that in the database available for them to assess, your number has not dropped, that you have to wait till it drops. You can wait for one week, or you can wait for months for this number to drop.
“We have nosed around, what they are unofficially telling us is that the central server and the database, the capacity is limited. It’s over full and no funds. Perhaps, the communication ministry or NIMC is foot-dragging to expand it.
People are suffering Nigerians are suffering. They have resorted to reaching out to those in authority. If you know somebody, you put out a call and cry over your predicament. And that big man will help you.
If you don’t have a big person, big man or woman to help you, the sad aspect of it is that you have to sort yourself out.
“We have received several reports where citizens are compelled to offer bribes to facilitate the dropping of NIN in that central database. And we asked why make Nigerians suffer and go through this hard period, if the government is not ready to really put infrastructure in place for effective operation of NIN? Why suffer citizens they cannot open new bank accounts?
“They cannot indeed buy new telephone lines, renew their driver’s license, nor international passport. This is because the NIMC cannot effect the dropping of the NIN number in the database. It is a deliberate effort so that those collecting the bribes will be smiling to the bank.
“You are compelled to seek the face of one big man or one big woman.
Can we continue like this as a nation? Who are those responsible? The NIMC or the Minister of Communications? What are they doing? They are pretending nothing is happening. They are living their normal lives, while Nigerians are suffering.”
An official of FRSC (name withheld), told Daily Sun: “As you can see, today alone, we have over 500 people on ground. So, if you want to be attended to on time you need to pay for it. Once you pay N5,000, I will collect your details and send to the headquarters and in a hour it is sorted out. Some people who desperately need it are even begging us with N10,000, especially those who need it for travels.”
When contacted, NIMC spokesperson, Mr Kayode Adegoke, did not respond to enquiries sent to his WhatsApp line as at the time of filing this report.