Crowds of National Identification Number (NIN) applicants returned to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) offices yesterday as the commission’s protesting workers called off their strike.
NIMC employees started a two-day strike last week to demand fair working conditions and a healthcare package.
Yesterday, the rush by applicants was to beat the deadline for registration, verification and subsequent attachment of NIN to Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) cards on February 9.
In Lagos, applicants complained, among others, of a sluggish process and inefficiency.
It was gathered at the Alausa NIMC office, Ikeja, that applicants began trooping to the centre as early as 5 a.m. Those who arrived at the office by 5 a.m. They were surprised to see a list already ahead of them of about 100 people.
An elderly man, who gave his name as Alhaji Babatunde Aderibigbe, said that he had not made any progress for about a week.
Aderigbe was asked why he didn’t try out the booking system, he said: “I don’t have faith in that process. This is Nigeria! I think it is better the way I came. But it has become too stressful, especially for adults like me approaching 70. I think the process should be reviewed.”
Moses Joda, another enrollee, complained about favoritism. He said, “It’s like you can’t get registered if you don’t know a guy. Anyway, some people take some people in, including those who come really late. I really do not understand. I got here before 5:30 a.m. today. “And after five hours, I couldn’t do anything.”
On the social media, a Twitter user with the handle @DrOlufunmilayo, wrote: “Yesterday, Lagos government announced closedown of Meiran Primary Health Centre due to health workers getting overwhelmed with COVID-19. Today, Lagosians have been in Alausa NIMC centre since 5 a.m. trying to get NIN. For God’s sake, what kind of madness is this? What is this insanity?”
To Natural Hair Girl @NwaniUju, “Those ones going to NIMC office are mad too. I have used a code to generate NIN for my mum. What are they going to the office for? Whatever they are looking for, they will find it.”
An official of the Alausa NIMC office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Tropics Nigeria that the challenge was that applicants had refused to explore the booking process, “which was created to reduce crowds at the centers, and guard against the spread of COVID-19. As you can see, look at the crowd today, and it may be like that till the deadline.”
Officials at the Agege Local Government Area (Maternity Centre) attended to only individuals on appointment. They asked the new applicants to come back for registration at the end of February.
The facilities available for them were restricted, according to one of the officials.
One of the officials said he was sure that the government would continue to extend the closing date as few people were registered while turning down a desperate man’s request for his number.
An applicant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called on the government to build more facilities with registration points to make it easier for Nigerians.
Huge crowds surrounded the Commission’s Aba road office in Port Harcourt and the COVID-19 protocols were flouted as people struggled to be taken care of.
The employees who were not more than ten were overwhelmed by the crowd numbering thousands. Some of the devices also did not work optimally, rendering the situation under the scorching sun more intolerable.
Any of the residents our reporter encountered at the NIMC office near the Independent National Electoral Commission on Aba Road said they arrived before 8 a.m. at the NIMC premises. They were not present on Monday, but at 5 p.m. because of a huge crowd.
“Ms. Edna Wodi, who lives on Mile One’s Ojike Street, Diobu, said, “Today at 8am, I left my house and went to the NIMC, but look at me, it’s 5pm. It’s so irritating that I locked my shop in order to be here.
At Kano registration centers, LONG queues resumed. A visit to the road registration centers of AKTH and Zaria revealed a long queue of people waiting patiently to register.
Any of the enrollees who offered to speak expressed joy at the exercise’s resumption. However, they found that the practices had not changed.
“We are glad the workers have called off their strike and the registration continues but the situation still remains as it was. The number of staff has not increased. The long queue is still there. The work hours still remain. So, I have not seen any thing that change,” an enrollee volunteered.
However, the NIMC has warned the public to beware of a fake app that allegedly connects NIN to SIM cards.
NIMC dissociated itself from the app in a post on its Twitter account, claiming it belonged to fraudsters who collect NINs and bank verification numbers from people.
NIMC stated, “The app was not created by NIMC or the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is run by fraudsters who are currently harvesting people’s NINs and BVNs by default.
People were instructed by the Commission to protect their data and to avoid revealing personal information to unauthorized persons or platforms.
It was announced that NIMC had released a mobile app that could be used to connect seven SIM cards to one NIN.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, who made the disclosure, in a television interview, said: “We developed an app, when you go online, you will see it. That app, as long as you have your NIMC number, you will only download it without visiting any office. You will be able to link up to seven SIM numbers to only one. I have already downloaded the app, launched the app, and already linked some of my numbers immediately. This is part of digitalisation.”
The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF) yesterday, commented on the development, it cautioned Nigerians to avoid crowding as seen at NIMC centers.
However, it noted that there was no decision to postpone the NIN registration unless President Muhammadu Buhari decided otherwise.
Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora, Minister of State for Health, who provided the alert at the PTF briefing in Abuja, noted that overcrowding at NIN enrollment centers across the nation could be a super-spreading occurrence and blamed the development on some Nigerians’ attitude defects.
Mamora claimed that there was simply no reason for crowding if only individuals were to voluntarily comply with the Ministry of Communications guidelines.
He said, “It’s is an attitudinal issue, as the ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NIMC never asked people to crowd the centers the way they are doing.
“It might be a super spreader event, there is no reason for what is going on under the guise of trying to get enrolled. The statement credited to me on the social media as to the suspension of the exercise is out of context, hence misleading because it bothers on national security, Boko Haram, kidnapping and other criminalities going on in the country, which are facilitated using mobile phones. What is required is voluntary compliance to the guidelines. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. President’s order on the matter remains as being carried out by the relevant ministry.”