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Confusion, fear and frustration over Nigeria’s National ID number registration

Nigeria , 11 Jan 2021

In Nigeria, the ongoing process to link SIM registration records with the National Identity Number (NIN) database is beset with widespread confusion regarding deadlines and guidelines. The procedure has also been criticised for placing citizens at risk of COVID-19.

Responding to reports that there would be widespread disconnection of lines as a result of the government’s policy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) issued a statement which reads: “Most of these publications are based on the erroneous assumption that for every network or SIM connection, there is one unique human subscriber. However, with the advent of social media and app-driven digital environment, network subscription went beyond human subscribers to include machines like PoS, Routers, Wi-Fi devices, electricity meters, CCTV, tracking devices etc.”

According to Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, a survey showed that on average, there are now approximately four-to-five SIMs to every human subscriber in Nigeria, which is why the government has allowed the linkage of up to seven SIMs to one unique NIN.

“Thus, if there are 43 million Nigerians with NINs, this could account for about 172 million SIMs already linked to NINs. It is very important to emphasize that the current exercise of linking NIN to SIM(s) is for the common good of all Nigerians, as it has far reaching benefits,” said Adinde.

COVID-19 threat

Concern is increasing over exposure to COVID-19.

With the deadline for the NIN-SIM integration fast approaching, many people are heading for the few registration centres available and scattered across the country.

Isa Ali Pantami, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, blamed the subscribers for “visiting in huge crowds without an invitation.”

“Citizens will go there, their names are not part of those to be captured but they will go and stay at the gates, and if you ask them to leave they will not. Even the security agencies plead with them but they will not go. All the crowds you have been seeing in Abuja or Lagos, 90 percent or even 95 percent of them were not part of those invited to be captured. They only go there and stay outside the gates,” the Minister said.

Responding to calls that the registration be taken fully online, the Minister said this cannot be realistically achieved because of the biometric registration requirements.

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