Radio analysts in Akwa Ibom State do not see the rationale of Federal Government issuing a directive that allows many Nigerians to embark on what looks like a panicky National Identity Number registration in the face of COVID-19 surge in Nigeria.
The Federal Government had directed Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to suspend mobile numbers of people without a NIN before February 23, 2021.
On Tuesday, December 15, last year, the NCC released a statement ordering the suspension of the registration of new SIM cards by all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country.
Later, NCC shifted the date requiring mobile network subscribers to provide NIN to update SIM registration records to January 9 for those who have NIN already while February 23 is for new registration.
The analysts who spoke in unison in Planet Radio101.1 FM, Uyo in Akwa Ibom during People’s Parliament programme on Friday, January 8, said though it good for have NIN, but the timing for the directive was ill-timed because of COVID-19 spike.
They said it appears Federal government does not accord importance to the severity of COVID-19, noting ‘’How can the government bring up the directive now that social distancing should be adhered to by all but is bridged by many in an attempt by them to register to beat the deadline?’’
One caller recalled ‘’In a particular, the number of people angling for registration outnumber the staffers of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). There is social distancing among the applicants as they crowd up any registration centre.’’
A key analyst and public commentator, Franklyn Isong said ‘’Apart from anything other thing, most of the applicants do not wear facemask or observe social distancing because of their anxiety to register, get the NIN to avoid blockage of their telephone lines.’’
As a confirmation, Fred Iwok, the director of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in Akwa Ibom State admitted that most applicants coming for registration bridge COVID-19 Protocols.
Iwok speaking in Planet FM 101.1 on Friday noted ‘’When the applicants come to our office in the Federal Secretariat, Uyo, most of them do not wear facemask. When you try to convince them on the need to wear such, ‘they will tell you that there is no COVID-19. It is a scam.’’
According to him, ‘’In our facility, we request them to wear facemask before they enter. We provide soap and water for hand washing. Most of them standing outside do not wear facemask nor observe social distancing.’’
Earlier last year, NIMC, an organisation set up to operate the national identity database in Nigeria, had confirmed that only 38 per cent of Nigerians have any form of identification.
SIM registration in Nigeria began in April 2010 after the NCC ordered mobile network subscribers to provide personal information and submit biometric scans in order to register their SIM cards.
Since it was launched in 2007, NIMC has not been able to issue ID cards to Nigerians as many villagers mostly farmers in the South South region are yet to get theirs.
In January 2020, they imposed a regulation requiring users to complete digital identification procedures with the NIMC and provide the details to their mobile network provider.
With a population of about 200 million people, Nigeria has an estimated 198 million active mobile telephone lines as of May 2020, only 41.5 million registered for their identity cards.