NIN registration: Complaints galore as bottlenecks fester amid COVID-19 scare
The current drive by the Federal Government to ensure that every Nigerian obtains a National Identification Number (NIN) has no doubt caught the full attention of the masses. Unlike before when a good percentage of the population were somewhat nonchalant about the project, almost every adult Nigerian who was yet to be enrolled, especially subscribers to the GSM networks in the country, have been eager to do so since December 15, 2020. On that date, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directed telecommunications operators in the country like MTN, Airtel, Glo, 9Mobile and others to block all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM), popularly known as SIM cards, that were not registered with the NIN within two weeks from that date.
Following outcry by Nigerians, the Federal Government later granted a three-week extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020, to January 19, 2021; and six weeks extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020, to February 9, 2021. Expectedly, the affected Nigerians have been making frantic efforts to beat the deadline. While some have succeeded, others, in their large numbers, have not for no fault of theirs.
Findings showed that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was very ill prepared to attend to the number of intending enrollees who now besiege their offices on a daily basis. Aside from long delays at the centres as a result of malfunctioning machines and/or incompetent staff, reports of alleged extortion and other sharp practices by the staff of the Commission have been rife lately. Touts were also taking advantage of the inefficiency of the Commission to feed fat on the desperation of many. And this was not just happening in one state of the federation. As it was in Lagos State, so it was in other states monitored by The Guardian.
When The Guardian visited the NIMC Centre in Isolo, Lagos, there were ‘agents’ at the gate who offered to help people facilitate their registration for a ‘small fee’ of N30, 000. The Guardian rejected their offer and went into the premises where a huge crowd gathered. There was a civil defence officer, a woman, guarding the entrance. She demanded the sum of N200 from anyone who sought to speak with her. When asked what the money was for, she responded that it was for “form and photocopy but you will still need to pay another N100 to actually get the form.”
Upon paying this money after much argument, she rudely told The Guardian that everyone was given a date to come back, noting that the next available date was February 11, 2022. When her attention was drawn to the fact that the date was a year and a month away, she angrily ordered The Guardian to leave the place.
It was at this point that another woman at the centre, who identified herself as Oloidi Bukola, called The Guardian aside and said: “You have to call her aside and speak with her quietly. I paid N10, 000 last week and was asked to come today and now I have gotten the temporary slip. You have to be patient because they (NIMC officials) are attending to a lot of people. I have been here since 6.00am today and if you want, I can give you the number of the other officer to assist you.”
There were hundreds of people both inside and outside the offices, struggling to get registered. One of such people was Mrs. Rejoice Okocha and her two daughters, aged 10 and seven years respectively. They got to the centre at 8.00am but had not been registered at 3.00pm.
“We came with here around 8:00am to do the NIN registration but up till this time our names or numbers are yet to be called. To get the form, I parted with N300 (N100 for each form), which I got at a photocopying centre by the entrance gate.
“Going by the list, we ought have been home by now, as we were among the early birds, but it appears the officials have people they are calling and registering, as they always come out from the office to call names with forms on their hands,” she complained.
As the intending registrants voiced their complaints amid intense pushing and shoving, the NIMC officials also complained that the “network keeps disappearing.” At some point, the civil defence officer had some hopeful registrants contribute money among themselves to buy food and refreshments for herself and the NIMC officials doing the registration. The officer, who refused to divulge her name, said they only attended to 20 people daily and boasted that those outside were wasting their time, as they wouldn’t be attended to. Bukola, however, scoffed at her claim, saying she was waiting for people to get well frustrated and begin to ask for her assistance “so that she would bill you well. All of them are in on it; they share the money among themselves.”
After several hours at the centre, The Guardian headed to the Oshodi NIMC office at Bolade, where an even bigger crowd gathered. The crowd was so much that those who desired to gain entrance quickly were required to part with N5,000. Once inside, one had to buy the NIMC form for N50 and the civil defence officer signed on it as evidence of payment. After that, the long wait began downstairs. Those who were lucky enough had their names called and were given the temporary slip while the unlucky ones were asked to come back the next day.
Blessing Eghosa, who was at the centre, told The Guardian: “I left my house in Ejigbo since 5:30am just to get here early and get it done but I was deceiving myself because it is not by coming early but by having money. When I saw how the whole thing was being run, I came with money yesterday and was able to buy my way in. Now, they are telling us to pay N400 for printing and photocopy after parting with N5,000. I paid the money to one officer named Adekunle and he has been the one helping so many of us here to get this thing done.”
A man who identified himself simply as Daniel complained that he had been coming to the centre for over a week but had not been able to register because he refused to bribe anyone