The Federal government through the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, last December announced that all telecom subscribers should link their National Identity Numbers (NINs), with mobile SIM cards and deadline for such huge national assignment was put for December 30, 2020 and later moved to January 19, 2021. Since the announcement, Nigerians across the 36 states have continued to besiege the Enrolment Centres of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), to have their National Identity Number (NIN), linked with their SIM, but that is not happening without a huge cost on the average Mobile Phone Subscriber. Reports have it that many Nigerians wake up as early as 3a.m and head for any nearby NIMC Enrolment Centres which of course is not a guarantee that such persons would be attended to by the officials of the Commission because of the mammoth crowd that turn out on daily basis the Commission’s personnel had to attend to, since the registration started. Unfortunately, the on-going NIN registration to a great extent has run foul of the COVID- 19 protocols whereby many Nigerians who are fraught over the threat by the Federal government to block their SIM cards do not have any other choice than to risk it all, by joining the long queue, ultimately to link their NIN with their Mobile SIMs.
This position however confirms the alarm raised by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), in which the body expressed concern over likely spike in COVID-19 transmission as a result of the NIN/SIM card registration presently going on. The timing for this registration going by the spiking of COVID-19 virus according to reports by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), surely would have some consequences in the days ahead if at all the efforts of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 is not already in jeopardy. We also understand the position of the Commission that says it adopted some measures, which one of them is booking system for every applicant, visiting the NIMC office between 9a.m to 1p.m but the crowd that file for registration across board, clearly calls for more pragmatic approach if this exercise must be seamless at this time of uncertainty brought about by the deadly COVID-19 virus. According to available report, only 47.8million subscribers have so far submitted their NINs in a population of over 200million where supposedly almost half of the population are GSM subscribers, meaning that the deadline of February 9, 2021 as pronounced by the Communication and Digital Economy Minister for total NIN linkage across the country may not be feasible going by the crowd and slow pace of work at various Enrolment Centres.
We understand that the NIN- SIM card linkage is for our own good and good of the society, especially now the country is encumbered with security challenge almost everywhere. ‘’What is worth doing, they say is worth doing well’’. We therefore call on the Federal government and by extension the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami to have a rethink on the date of closure other than February 9, 2021 earlier announced. This would give opportunity for more Nigerians who are still struggling with this exercise, both in the urban and rural areas since it’s obvious that a lot of people are truly making efforts to obey the government directives. We also urge the Federal government equally to ensure that safety measures and mechanisms are properly put in place at all Centres of registration across the country to avoid unnecessary spreading of the virus to unsuspecting publics.