The recent government’s policy which makes the possession of the National Identity Number (NIN) as one of the conditions for registering for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for admission into the university and other tertiary institutions is another example of a good policy that is being implemented at the wrong time.
Going by the harrowing experiences of Nigerians who have sought to register for the NIN since the inception of the scheme, we doubt the capacity and commitment of officials of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the agency saddled with the responsibility, to deliver on the important national project. While the registration centres are not many, the NIMC does not have enough staff to carry out the exercise. The number of Nigerians so far registered in the scheme is a pointer that there is need for improvement.
Consequently, Aliyu Aziz, the Director General of the NIMC, was recently quoted to have admitted that the agency charged with the responsibility of registering all Nigerians and bringing all other data gathering agencies of government under its platform, has succeeded in registering only 35 million Nigerians. We doubt if half of this number have been issued the permanent registration card. For a country of about 200 million people, the performance of the NIMC in this onerous exercise is hardly good enough.
The poor performance of the NIMC so far might have prompted the government to increase the budgetary provision to the agency with a charge to achieve its mandate. In the 2020 budget, the NIMC got a substantial raise in its allocation, against the backdrop of the N20billion the agency said it needed to harmonise the activities of all data-gathering agencies.
But the problem is whether the NIMC is capable of changing its ways or not. The experience of many Nigerians, who recognise the importance of the national identification card and have tried to register, has been unbearable. They have largely suffered in silence or protested without making much noise. On a daily basis, some Nigerians arrive as early as 5am at the few offices of the NIMC scattered throughout the federation and queue in the open for hours on end for an exercise that would probably start five hours later, or even do not start at all, only to return the next day for the same ordeal. Due to power failure and poor Internet service, no NIMC centre has registered more than 20 persons daily since the inception of the exercise.
This is unexpected in an Internet age where the means of communication are varied, versatile and largely efficient. We bemoan the chaotic nature of the NIN registration exercise and urge those involved in ensuring that the exercise is seamless and less hazardous. In other words, there is need to simply the process of registering for the NIN card. We hope that the management of the NIMC is aware of the hurdles Nigerians pass through to register for NIN.
The ugly situation at the various NIMC registration centres across the country might have prompted the House of Representatives to urge the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to suspend its new policy requiring the NIN for UTME candidates. While it is commendable that JAMB is working together with the NIMC for a transparent UTME process, we agree with the lawmakers that the board should extend the use of the national ID until such a time there is enough awareness for prospective candidates.
In the interim, JAMB should find other ways of making its examination transparent other than the NIN card. To enhance the process of the NIN registration, more centres should be created across the country and more staff recruited for the exercise. Therefore, we urge JAMB to rescind its decision to make the NIN a pre-condition for registering for the UTME.