Nigeria is fond of issuing threat orders that at last end up like nothing initially was said. And I can say that this order announced Tuesday that from 2018 only citizens with the National Identification Number (NIN) would obtain a Nigerian passport or renew existing one is just another of such.
Any Nigerian that has had an encounter with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) would understand so well what I mean that the order means nothing. From my experience, NIMC could be the next to the electricity companies of Nigeria in incompetence.
For so many years, we have heard of budgets and budgets to the NIMC including N121b in 2012 to empower and fund the issuance of national identity to all Nigerians and nothing came out of it. The first attempt was during the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002 when there was registration that stopped work and activities. The teams came to homes and did all the gimmicks. At last many got their cards and many others didn’t. I was among those that didn’t because the day I went to pick the card at the City Hall, Lagos Island LGA, fight broke out between the officials that were supposed to give the cards and some card owners/collectors.
I had registered at the Igbosere High Court and on collection, they said the LG’s head office was the delivery point. There was a fight the day I visited for my ID as the people who initiated the fight, most of them street urchins, were said to have been asked to pay N200 by the office. Their refusal to pay and insistence that the collection should be free resulted in the fracas and at last all ran away without getting it.
In September 2013, the NIMC wrote a letter addressed to me as the Bureau Chief of The Sun in Abuja inviting the staffers of the media organization to come to their office on Adetokunbo Ademola, Wuse 2, precisely at the ITF head office opposite Abuja Hilton to register for the national identity card.
I am so sure of driving four other journalists, my colleagues, there and registering on about September 17. Four years after we were issued the tear slip containing the NIN till now, nobody in NIMC of anywhere called to ask us come for the card as they had informed that when the cards are ready, and according to them, in just few weeks, we would be contacted.
Late 2015, I mentioned that ordeal to my neighbor in Abuja then who told me his wife worked with NIMC at the office where I registered and she volunteered to assist me process the card. But I could not lay my hands on the paper containing the NIN and that was aborted. Yet, even though I did not locate the paper and the NIN, I had asked my friend in anger if that is the way Nigeria would exist forever, that until you know someone somewhere, you don’t get anything done, even an ID card you were invited to register for.
On the day we visited for the registration, the office was brimming with other citizens registering happily and it is possible if one samples opinion of those that registered, not more than 10% of them would have got the cards, and most of them were not called to pick them, but used connections of people they know in that office.
With my peculiar experience which I am sure is also the plight of several millions of Nigerians that had registered or have been willing to register and the office not willing to do their work, whose fault would it be when they don’t have NIN?
January next year, my passport expires and would be due for renewal, so what the federal government is actually saying is that the failure of the same FG and its agencies would entail me becoming another victim to be denied the right to renew my passport?
That is why I said it means nothing to make that declaration because the FG itself, has not shown any seriousness in registering Nigerians for the ID card, and we know the reason. The footdragging is because the registration would expose exactly the number of Nigerian citizens and would do damage to the bloated populations states post to claim money from federal allocation and also would work against another bloated fraud – rigged election figures. I have resolved after hearing of that directive that I am ready to sue the FG, Immigration and NIMC to enforce my fundamental right to renew my passport when it expires because I had already done what I should do four years ago to have a national ID and NIN and the FG frustrated me only to turn around and doubly jeopardize my right to a passport. That won’t be fair. And I am sure many other Nigerians would suffer same fate.
It is irrational that a father denied his son having his school fees and turn around to punish the child for not going to school. Nigerian government needs to be reasonable at least for once. So the FG should say something understandable and also ask NIMC if Nigerians had not been registering or shown interest in having national ID and also verify from them the percentage of registered Nigerians they have issued the cards in the past four years.
On August 14, 2014, the then DG of NIMC, Barrister Onyemenam, took all his contraption to the presidential Villa and registered and also issued President Goodluck Jonathan his national ID and made a show of it as if all Nigerians enjoyed such premium service. So if Nigerians don’t have NIN, the FG should blame herself and give them time to register and make NIN available to them and only when they refuse would it be right to punish them.
Nigerians have taken more than enough punitive actions from the government in the past, especially with the present regime and the FG might not be wise to stretch her luck too far.
Before now, when the APC was in opposition, former Governor Babatunde Fashola and all the APC propagandists drew lines in the sand that even a most unserious government can fix Nigeria’s power problem in six months. So far, we have been subjected to more darkness than before for 27 months after this government came.
Up till now, we have been arguing back and forth on why the DISCOs should dance their disco properly and avail electricity consumers of prepaid meters or stop billing them their crazy way. In line with the tradition of failed promises, even after the National Assembly had issued motions to that effect, the DISCOs still bill Nigerian consumers arbitrarily and refuse also to issue them any meter and nobody ever sanctioned them.
This NIN directive would just be another denial and mess in the cooking and Nigerians are expected to keep quiet and swallow it down as usual. I, for one, won’t, and I am ready for the Immigration when the renewal of my passport would be due in January 2018 unless the NIMC calls me as promised four years ago and issues me the NIN and the ID card. For me, I can never go to their office to request for the card they invited me for the registration that took me the whole day because of the crowd at the office.
The FG and all governments in Nigeria should bring to an end the tradition of treating the citizens like they don’t matter. We really matter and there is no Nigeria without us and if the only people that matter are those in power, they should not forget that some years ago, they were with us as chaff until they found themselves in power.
If NIMC could go to the president and issue him an instant NIN and ID, it’s not too much if they call me to pick up mine in the their office. I am waiting or we meet in court end of next January.