The Federal Government’s extension of the National Identity Number (NIN)-Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) card verification exercise by another three months has been greeted with mixed feelings. This fresh extension comes just a day before the old deadline that was set to expire today.
While some industry stakeholders applauded the extension, others queried the rationale behind earlier deadlines that subjected people to mental stress before they could get their NIN-SIM registered, verified and linked.
The new extension announced by government, yesterday, makes it the sixth time since the first deadline of December 30, 2020.
A statement signed by the Director of Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ike Adinde and Head of Corporate Communications, NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, said the Federal Government has shifted the deadline from its earlier date of July 26 (today) to October 31.
The statement claimed that the decision to extend the deadline was made following a request by stakeholders to accommodate registration in hard-to-reach remote areas, diaspora, foreigners and diplomatic missions, and address low enrolments in schools and hospitals, as evidenced by enrolment figures.
Nigerians are, however, at a loss over incessant extension of deadline amid worsening insecurity in the country, which the policy was touted to address. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, earlier reiterated government’s resolve to embark on full implementation of the policy aimed at fighting insecurity in the country.
The Minister made the assertion in April through his Twitter account while reacting to an allegation of having links with terrorist groups. He said no amount of intimidation would stop the exercise.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari, while urging Nigerians to participate in the synchronisation of their NIN with SIM cards, said it would help cover the nation’s security structure and identify criminals terrorising Nigeria.
But with the exercise into its eighth month and with nearly 60 million already linked up, the spate of insecurity, especially kidnapping, has not abated. Kidnap victims recently lamented how bandits were thwarting the Federal Government’s security regulations in the telecommunications sector.
Residents of Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states, who recently recounted their experiences in kidnappers’ dens, said they made the bandits’ telephone numbers available to security agents.
They, however, lamented that nothing was done to apprehend the hoodlums, thus making a mess of the Federal Government’s directives on registration of telephone subscribers and the linkage of SIM with the NIN.
Under sections 19 and 20 of the Nigerian Communications Commission (Registration of Telephone Subscribers) Regulations, 2011, telecommunications firms are expected to register all subscribers.
In 2015, the NCC directed all telecommunications firms to deactivate unregistered or partly registered SIMs. The regulation, according to government, is aimed at ensuring that all subscribers are traceable for security reasons. To further strengthen security in the country, the NCC last year directed the linkage of SIMs with the NIN.
According to the statement announcing the extension, this is as a result of a review of the progress of the exercise, which indicated significant progress, hence, the need to consolidate the gains of the enrolment and NIN-SIM verification process across the country.
The Federal Government disclosed that as at July 24, there were over 5,500 enrolment systems within and outside the country, which had significantly eased the NIN enrolment process and subsequent linkage of NIN to SIM.
The statement informed that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the extension as part of efforts to make it easier for citizens within and outside the country, and legal residents to obtain the NIN.
The NIN-SIM linkage also makes it easier for the security agencies to carry out their statutory duties and relevant parastatals under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy are supporting them as required.
The government explained in the statement that there are now a total of 59.8 million unique NIN enrolments, with average of three to four SIMs per NIN.
With the great number of enrolment centres within and outside the country, and more coming up, every citizen, legal resident, and Nigerian citizens living in diaspora should be able to obtain their NINs.
When the last extension was announced four weeks ago, government said a total of 57.3 million unique NIN enrolments so far had been done, with an average of three to four SIMs per NIN, while more than 4,500 new enrolment systems had been added to the process since December 2020, bringing the number across the country to 5,410.
Nigeria has 188 million mobile subscriptions. Using the FG’s benchmark of three SIMs per NIN, it means roughly 170 million mobile subscriptions have been accounted for.
This, however, doesn’t account for the general population. With about 211 million people in the country and more than 105.8 million of them adults, it means nearly 50 per cent of the adult population is still without NIN.
With Nigeria’s mobile penetration rate currently standing at 55 per cent, there is a huge possibility that targeting just mobile subscribers as FG’s strategy to drive NIN registration might not be holistic. This is simply because about 90 million Nigerians would be excluded from the strategy.Follow us on social media