An appeal has gone to the Federal Government of Nigeria to either suspend or extend the deadline set for the registration of the National Identity Number (NIN) and its linkage to the SIM cards of Nigerian subscribers. This appeal was contained in an advisory released by a university don, Dr. Tunde Oseni, who is the Head of Department of Politics and International Relations of Lead City University, Ibadan, on his social media handles in the week. According to the Political Scientist and Public Affairs Analyst, the public health crisis that may result from the overcrowding seen at the National Identity Management Commission’s offices across Nigeria in the face of the rising cases of COVID 19 in the country is enough to prompt the government to soft pedal on the exercise.
Oseni said any government policy that will achieve its purpose must be focused on the convenience of the majority of people for whom such policy is intended. He therefore proposed four ways through which the government could achieve its aim of on boarding Nigerians into the identity management system. The university don proposed massive education for the citizenry on the need to have a central identity management system. He charged both the Ministry of Information and Culture as well as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to use its wide network in the country to ensure a grassroots-based campaign reaches the people.
He thus advised a one-year extension to the exercise suggesting December 31, 2021 due date. The academician as well encouraged the government to make the process of registration bi-platform using both the online and offline registration points to make the process seamless. He said the NIMC should be empowered with the needed technology to do this. The scholar went down the memory recounting his experience while a student abroad.
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He stated “I remember when I was based in UK and had to get the National Insurance number and the Resident Permit Card. It was seamless as most of the process was done online. I only visited the office once (for data capturing), having booked an appointment online as well. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) should be empowered along this tech line.”
Oseni equally urged the federal government to decentralize the registration process, leveraging on banks and telecoms companies. He said “recent crowding in NIMC offices across the country showcases one thing: facilities for registration are overstretched. If it is possible, and I think it is, telecoms can partner with the Commission to widen the access for identity registration. Even banks, is there any one now who has a bank account and not a BVN? By all means possible, decentralise the process.”
The Public Analyst advised the government to create a central database. He lamented a situation where Nigerians carry different means of identification. He queried “how many cards should one carry: voter’s card, national identity card, ECOWAS passport, which other one?” He then suggested that “it may take time, resources and expertise, but a one-stop tech solution is needed to integrate all necessary data of citizens.”
In his concluding note, Oseni averred that the government should implement the NIN project within the window allowed by the prevailing COVID 19 condition. He noted that “as laudable as the NIN project is, the COVID- 19 pandemic has affected governance, even life, across the globe. It is within the reality of what is obtainable and achievable that a policy should be anticipated and implemented.”