By Job Osazuwa, Lukman Obiyi Chinwendu Obienyi, Lagos, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri, Okey Sampson, Umuahia, Joe Effiong, Uyo, Paul Osuyi, Asaba, Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi, Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin, Tony John, Port Harcourt, Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki. Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto, Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu, Gyang Bere
On December 15, 2020, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) issued a statement, ordering the suspension of the registration of new Subscriber Identification Modules, otherwise known as SIM, by all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country. It also said that mobile network subscribers were required to register and link their National Identification Number (NIN) to their SIM before December 30, 2020.
The statement stressed that SIMs not linked to NIN would be blocked and any network operator that flouted the order would lose their licenses.
But following the outcry by Nigerians over the short time given for the exercise, it was extended by six weeks, from December 30, 2020 to February 9, 2021. The Federal Government later extended the registration deadline to February 9, 2021. According to a statement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Patami, approved the extension of the deadline again to April 6, to give Nigerians and legal residents more time to integrate their NIN with their SIM.
Since the announcement was made, Nigerians have been making frantic efforts to register and integrate their NIN with their SIM. So, in their numbers, Nigerians storm NIN registration centres across the country.
Ironically, the government, at the same time, was also preaching the gospel of social distancing against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But while government was spitting fire and brimstone, the NIMC was ill prepared to meet the intending enrollees at their point of need. In fact, the NIMC was helplessly overwhelmed by the surge of human beings in their offices.
Investigation revealed that the work of the NIMC is hampered by malfunctioning and insufficient machines as well as incompetent/inadequate personnel, who are overstretched. Again, allegation of underhand practices and favouritism is rife: Touts emerged, providing “services” to those, who couldn’t bear with the long delays at the centres. While some of the touts are self-employed, others are representing the interest of the NIMC officials.
Accordingly, diverse reactions are trailing the exercise and the threat to block all SIMs not licked with NIN.
NIN is now required to obtain the drivers’ licence, international passport, make some bank transactions and register for the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination, among others.
Take this from Comrade Cyril Okemuo: “My take on the ongoing NIN registration exercise is that government has demonstrated its incompetence in the management of information. Considering the fact that there is the COVID-19 pandemic for which government has rolled out measures to curtail the spread of the virus, same government cannot be asking its citizens to converge in large numbers in designated public places for the NIN registration.
“This is contradictory and endangering the lives of citizens. Apart from the above, how many times would government embark on capturing data of Nigerians? There was the SIM registration and BVN exercises. Don’t forget the failed national ID card project under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. There are also drivers’ licenses and international passports, which capture information regarding citizens.
“So, how much information do government want from Nigerians? What government should do is to harmonise the data at its disposal. The current exercise from all indicators would go the way of previous ones.”
Okemuo advised government to consider the interest and convenience of citizens before taking decisions.
Last week, Daily Sun visited some NIMC registration centres across the country and made startling discoveries.
Bitter tales in Lagos
“Enrolment is free. Card issuance is free. NIN is free.” This is the inscription pasted at various NIMC offices in different parts of Nigeria. And it was so for years, until recently when the narrative shifted in many registration centres.
At the moment, NIN registration is just like the Biblical saying that it is easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God. Millions of Nigerians are complaining bitterly over the stress they go through in registering their NIN at the various NIMC centres across Nigeria.
There are bitter tales resonating from different cities across Nigeria. Some of the enrollees are frustrated and have taken to social media platforms to register their grievances.
Some applicants in Lagos said that they had to cough out N5, 000 to bribe their way through. It was learnt that when they pay such money, they become special candidates and would not have to go through the hassles of spending hours on the long queue. They are given express permission. These sets of preferential candidates get their slots reserved for them even when they are still sleeping in their homes.
It is different stories at different registration points. At some centres, it is simply chaos as COVID-19 protocols are flouted freely with people pushing and shoving to enter the premises.
A frustrated applicant, who gave his name simply as Chima, lamented: “This is about the third time we are doing SIM re-registration and verification in Nigeria. Yet, fraudsters are still committing different crimes using SIM without hiding the lines. When you report such criminal acts, it is still difficult for the security agents to fish out the fraudsters.”
The NIMC was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria.
The commission is also to register persons covered by the act, assign a unique NIN and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those who are citizens of Nigeria, as well as others legally residing in the country.
Officials of NIMC at some centres have reportedly complained of shortage of materials and bad network, prompting some of them to collect money from applicants.
At a health centre visited by one of our reporters in Lagos, a lot of under-hand transactions were going on between the officials of the NIMC and some desperate enrollees willing to pay in order to get quick service.
Some NIMC officials visit estates in Lagos where they register residents for a fee. One of such places is Igbo-Efon, Eti Osa, where residents pay N3500 each.
There are also “agents” telling people that they would help facilitate their registration for a small fee of N15,000.
In Oke-Oriya in Ikorodu, the Community Development Association (CDA) brought officials of NIMC at weekends – Saturday and Sunday.
The arrangements reduce stress and challenges being faced at the registration centres, but the service is not free.
For interested applicants to be attended to, the person must pay N1, 200 for registration and N200 for printing of the slip to the CDA.
Physically challenged persons attack NIMC officials in Imo
The Imo State office of the NIMC is presently not finding it easy capturing residents of the state in the ongoing NIN registration.
Senior Manager of the commission, Lawrence Duru, who spoke to our correspondent on Thursday, said that it was no longer safe for them to continue with the exercise in the state.
He disclosed that at the moment they have been forced out of their office along Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, capital of the state, by physically challenged persons, who felt they were marginalised in the exercise. They are now taking refuge at the office of the Owerri Capital Development Agency (OCDA).
Although some of the intending registrants claimed that they were being charged N1000 by the officials to register them, but Duru denied the claim, insisting that it is free. He, however, admitted that there were racketeers at the entrance of the office, demanding money from people.
Outside the NMIC office, privately owned business centres were doing brisk trade, demanding between N1500 and N2000 from their clients.
Emeka Ihegbulem, who recently got registered, told our correspondent that he paid N1,600 before they gave him a printout of the NIN.
It’s hellish to get NIN in Abia
It is just like hell on earth for one to get the NIN in Umuahia, the Abia State capital. About two weeks ago, two women came out of their office and were jubilating as if they were lottery winners. But their joy stemmed from being enrolled after weeks of sufferings.
Such has been the case since it was announced that all SIMs must be linked with NIN. When the exercise started late last year, it was carried out at the NIMC office at the Secretariat, Ogurube Layout, Umuahia. However, with time, the exercise was shifted to the United Bank for Africa (UBA) building along Bank Road. When the space at the bank could not contain the ever surging crowd, NIMC took the exercise to Heritage Bank premises on Okpara Square. However, a near stampede situation that occurred in the area forced NIMC officials back to their office where things remain the same.
To say that people are suffering in Abia to be registered is to say the least. A woman, who gave her name as Mrs. Comfort Igu, narrated her experience thus: “I came here to be registered about two weeks ago and after staying under the sun for about six hours, we were asked to go and come back the next day. The following day, I decided to go early so that I could be attended to on time, but to my surprise, at about 9 am, someone came out from the office to inform me if I wanted to be attended to, I should give them N2, 000 fuel money with which to power their generating set.”
Igu said she paid the money, hoping it would end her suffering, but to her surprise, she was asked to come in two weeks time to collect the slip after she was enrolled that day,
Another enrollee, Okorie Egbuta, said: “For many days, I have been coming here to be registered without success. You will be on the queue and those who are rich will appear from nowhere and will be given immediate attention.”
In Aba, the story was not different.
An official of NIMC said no staff would on his own ask anybody for money before he does his job, but that at times, the applicants on their own assist in buying fuel to operate the generating sets since the office has no steady power supply.
Registering for NIN still herculean task in Akwa Ibom
Until the postponement of the deadline to April, getting registered for the NIM at the NIMC office in Akwa Ibom State was a task harder than the biblical camel passing through the eye of a needle.
The crowd that usually descended on NIMC office along Olusegun Obasanjo Way (former Abak Road) and other outlets in that state had so overwhelmed the officials that the only way out was to resort to charging the people between N1000 and N3000 each or even more, for them to obtain NIN Enrollment Form for computer capturing.
The officers in charge of the centre at the Federal Secretariat centre in Uyo, when confronted as to why he was selling the form, which was supposed to be free, took offence and retorted: “This question you are asking me should better be referred to our Director since we are acting on instructions to charge and collect N1000 for the form.”
NIMC officials, who reacted to the allegation by concerned applicants they were forced to pay for the services rendered, said they resorted to charging money because the commission’s office in the state was not being funded.
When contacted on phone, the state director of NIMC, Mr. Fred Iwok, said he wouldn’t say people were not being charged to get registered since some private firms have been enlisted to facilitate NIN registration.
When told that a journalist, who is prepared to testify, had paid to be registered, he responded: “I will look into it.”
Delta: Residents frustrated
Despite the extension of the deadline for Nigerians to obtain the NIN, some enrollees in Asaba, Delta State capital, said they were still frustrated with the cumbersome process in getting registered.
As a result, unprecedented crowd of enthusiastic applicants are daily recorded at the office, with most of them getting frustrated for not achieving their aim.
An applicant, Austin Fejokwu, alleged that allegations of sale of forms to highest bidders that rocked the process at the initial stage were still being noticed despite the multiple registration centres that had been created.
Our correspondent learnt that at the initial stages of the exercise, rowdy sessions at the Warri and Effurun offices of NIMC compelled registration officials to engage in sharp practices collecting between N3,000 and N5,000 each to register desperate applicants.
In Effurun, Uvwie Local Government Area, officials were said to have taken advantage of the desperation of applicants for the NIN to begin to hawk registration forms.
Sources revealed that NIMC’s officials connived with some council staff, who were trading in the forms.
“People paid between N9,000 to N10,000 in Uvwie from roadside hawkers of NIN enrolment form but if you wanted to do it inside you have to struggle and bribe your way in for the form, which sold between N3,000 or N5,000,” a source alleged.
It’s tales of woes in Benue
Hundreds of members of the public, who daily throng the NIMC office in Makurdi, the capital of Benue State, to register for NIN have one tale of woe or another to tell.
A commercial motorcyclist, who simply gave his name as Sunday, told of how he visited the Makurdi office of NIMC to effect a change on his name and was told to pay the sum of N15,000 before that could be done.
Mercy, a full time house wife and a mother of three, lost her NIMC slip and had to visit the office too to retrieve her NIN number but said she was told to pay N1000.
It was further gathered that although every visitor to the NIMC premises is made to compulsorily wear a mask in compliance with COVID-19 protocols, the crowd at the entrance gate sometimes can be too much.
When our correspondent visited the premises, intending registrants complained that they were asked to pay N500 to obtain the form but a staff of the commission, who did not want his name in print, said those who sell the forms are the same residents, who are making brisk business with them.
Stress is killing in Taraba
Residents of Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, are lamenting the level of stress in trying to register for the NIN.
Some residents, who spoke to our correspondent at the NIMC office in Jalingo, said that it takes weeks of frustrating and exhausting efforts to register while some persons were given special treatment.
According to Dahiru Abdul, “this is a very frustrating exercise. I have been coming here since January 6, and have not been able to get registered. At times, we will come and stay on the queue and they will come and pick some other people to go and register them, leaving us behind. I just wish they have more places for us to go and register.”
In Edo, allegations of fraud trail NIN registration
In Edo State, one of the centres mapped out for the registration of the NIN, Oredo Secretariat precisely, has shut down its services due to collapse of systems.
This has compelled the management of the centre to refer prospective subscribers to the nearest centres.
During a visit to another registration centre, Egor local government secretariat, the registration exercise was ongoing as subscribers turned out enmasse to beat the deadline.
Expressing reservation, one of the subscribers, Usunobun Michael Enabulele, said though the exercise is going on smoothly, there was still allegation of fraud in the process as he was forced to cough out N500 as payment for the NIN form.
At the MTN office in the state, subscribers who besieged the office, complained that since the federal government asked them to link their SIM, they have found it difficult to use their phones.
Business at Rivers NIMC
To obtain the NIN from the NIMC office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is not something you would do without getting yourself prepared for it. Both your time, money and energy would go in for it.
But, in a situation where you want to “get if fast” without spending the whole working hours at the NIMC office located along Port Harcourt-Aba Road, waiting to get attention from any of the security personnel or staff of the commission, your money and your willingness to “pay as told” by the racketeers and agents, will settle the matter.
Investigation revealed that there are different prices for “capturing” alone, and “capturing with printout.” It was discovered that the agents also sell registration form at N5000. For processing, they collect between N5,500 and N6,000 from the applicant.
One of the agents, who approached the reporter to ask him, if he was interested, explained that the cash and form (filled) would be submitted to a security man (middleman), who takes it to the appropriate staff, while you wait outside the NIMC premises.
According to the female agent, those who do not have money wait hopelessly and helplessly, until after several hours any of the security will collect their forms and submit.
The agent regretted the postponement of the dateline for the NIN registration affected the money he makes daily. She disclosed that before she used to go home with at least N25,000 daily. But now, it is N15,000.
She told the reporter: “Before, demand was too high and we were always busy. People were coming to us, asking if we can help them. But, now, we are looking for them. Though those of them who don’t have time to wait will be willing to pay.”
Still low enrolment in Sokoto
In Sokoto State, the number of enrollees remains low despite the federal government deadline. Our correspondent, who visited the NIMC office in the state, saw few applicants were on queue seeking to get enrolled.
Findings revealed that only students, bank customers and others directed to the office by financial and government institutions because they require the identity card number to transact business or gain access to certain services, patronise the NIMC office.
An applicant, Gloria Adamu, described the process of obtaining her temporary card as hitch-free. “I have just been captured without staying too long on queue. This is my first time of seeking to be registered and I got it,” she said.
Meanwhile, the NIMC state coordinator, Engr. Garba Balarabe, frowned at the low turnout of residents in the state despite having enough centres easy registration.
The state coordinator, however, dispelled the insinuations of money inducement by some individuals to fast-track their registration process.
So far, so good
The NIN registration in Enugu State can be said to be moving smoothly as it has not recorded any sad incident.
But due to the deadline given by government, fraudsters are maximizing the opportunity to extort people in the guise of making it quicker for them to register.
Plateau residents under pressure
Residents of Plateau State who are yet to enroll for the NIN are going through hell. The pressure on them to secure the number is getting out of hand as most of them are almost passing the night at the registration centres.
At the moment, residents can only secure the registration at the NIMC head office at Lamingo in Jos North local government area and Old Government House Jos, in Jos South local government area.
Anambra: NIMC officials accused of corruption
From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
In Anambra, there was no crowd at the NIMC at Enugwu-Agidi. But despite the small number that came for the exercise on Friday, the intending registrants at the venue accused officials of being sluggish.
They also accused them of asking for bribe of N3000 before they could register. But an official who refused to give her name denied the allegation. She, however, that those came for registration were asked to “donate” N3000 for fuel.
Snail pace registration in Cross River
From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Residents of Calabar metroplolis are lamenting about their ordeals in the ongoing NIN registration, calling for the establishment of more centres.
The residents, who were seen in their numbers at the NIMC) offices at Murtala Muhammed Highway, Cross River State University of Technology (CRUTECH) and University of Calabar (UNICAL), expressed dismay at the slow pace of the exercise and rigours they are passing though.
The NIMC headquarters in Cross River State was one of the facilities vandalised during the #EndSARS protest that was hijacked by hoodlums between October 23 and 24, 2020.
One of the applicants at the NIMC headquarters in Calabar, Mr Otu Keyiye, said the process has been very cumbersome as some people come to the centre as early as 6am to queue. He said he has been coming for the registration for the past two weeks and he was yet to register even when he had filled form accordingly.
Another applicant, Mrs Felicia Kalu, said she started the process of her registration close to 10 years ago but has not been able to get her card or NIN.
The story is the same in many centres across the state. There is also allegation that the NIMC official collect N3,000 from intending registrants to start the registration process.
Another enrollee, Mr. Hilary Eke, expressed concern over the issue of requesting for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) of applicants as a prerequisite for the NIN registration.
More centres in Bornu
From Timothy Olarewaju, Maiduguri
The NIMC has established more registration centres in Maiduguri, Borno State capital, to decongest the usual crowd of intending registrants in its office.
However, some of the residents accuse NIMC officials of extortion. They said some officials asked them for between N1,000 and N2,000 before they could be registered.
Residents spend hours long in Ebonyi
The NIN registration in Ebonyi State has been going on for weeks without hitches.
But one of the major challenges of the exercise is that people spend too much time on long queues before getting registered.
When Daily Sun visited some registration points within Abakaliki, the state capital, a crowd waiting to be enrolled was seen clustered around the registration officers while in some places the people were in queues waiting for their turn to be registered.
At one of the registration centres located at Roban Stores, Mile 50 in Abakaliki, over 70 people were seen in a long queue waiting to be enrolled.
Mr. Chukwu Emmanuel, one of the people waiting to be registered at the Roban Stores registration centre, described the process as smooth but regretted that the number of NIMC officials handling the exercise were not commensurate to the number of people seeking to register.
Mrs.Obiageri Okorie, who spoke to our correspondent at another registration centre inside Old Government House in Abakaliki, denied the speculation that officials of the NIMC were extorting people before registering them, adding that she did not pay any money to get her NIN.
Efforts to speak to officials of the NIMC failed as they insisted that our correspondent must write and obtain permission from their national secretariat
No more crowd in Bayelsa
By Femi Folarin
The NIN registration in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital has dipped since the announcement of the deadline extension.
At the NIN registration centre located at Green Villa Road, the crowd has reduced drastically to about four to five people instead of the large crowd that used to gather there.
Mr Charles Anthony said the process has been improved to reduce the number of people coming for the registration.
At the NIMC office along Sani Abacha Road, the crowd has also reduced with people organised into different rooms for the registration.
Officials make brisk business in Kogi
From Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
It is, indeed, brisk business for officials in charge of issuing NIN as they charge intending registrants between N2000 and N10,000 irrespective of their problems.
In Lokoja, the state capital, our correspondent that only two issuing points were provided for the residents. Reports from Kabba, Okene, Dekina, Ankpa and some other parts of the state indicate that there are still long queues.