Still on Pantami, NIMC and NIN Deadline
By Abbas Badamasi

The announcement of a deadline for SIM card Integration with the National Identification Numbers (NIN) by Federal government punder the supervision of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Minister of Communication and Digital economy has generated a lot of controversy in the country.

According to NIMC Act 2007 section 18, every citizen of Nigeria (18years) are mandatory to obtain their NIN within 60days from NIMC as well as for a parent to obtain NIN for the newborn child within 60 days.

Though the timing and short notice on deadline elicited furious reactions, many Nigerians nevertheless appreciate the move because it is capable of reducing insecurity.

During the tension, the House of Representatives also urged the Federal Government to extend the deadline for the SIM/NIN synchronisation deadline by at least 10 weeks.

The Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu said as laudable as the idea behind the policy may seem, the timing is very wrong because Nigerians have not been properly sensitised.

A subscriber advocacy group, Association of Telephone, Cable TV and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS), advised the Federal Government to suspend the process because of the rampaging COVID-19 cases in the country.

It is paramount to change the misinformation and wrong insinuations circulating regarding the two weeks deadline of SIM card Integration which was later extended by six weeks.

On the contrary, the announcement for SIM card Integration with NIN was made on 4th of February, 2020 by by the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC).

The Commission charged the citizens without National Identity Card to enrol and obtain their NIN and submit to mobile operators for Integration before December 2020.

At the time of the announcement in February 2020 NIMC was yet to be transferred to the Ministry of Communication and Digital economy.

Though many commentators have criticised Dr. Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy over the recent directive for compliance to the deadline, in fairness to him he was grossly misunderstood especially when the initial announcement was made before the transfer of NIMC the Ministry of Communications.

In fact the two weeks deadline which was later extended by six weeks validate the previous announcement.

It is also discovered that NIMC officials and their union did not approach or send a request to the ministry regarding the facilities they needed.

In a recent media interview, Dr. Pantami also provided more insights to the contention.

He said: “I granted audience to NIMC officials in my office where they discussed their salary and I responded. Letter has been written to minister of Finance and other institutions to review their salary.

“Within the time NIMC was under my supervision, I visited NIMC headquarters to investigate their infrastructure, engaged their entire staffs and listened to all their complains. I also asked NIMC officials to conduct assessment on the facilities and get back to me. They requested for one Data Class which I approved so that they can have multiple data base backup.”

Meanwhile, in order to address the problems of inadequate registration centres across the country following the deadline, Dr Pantami approved the licensing of 173 private sector agents and 30 state governments and public sector institutions to conduct enrolment of Nigerians and legal residents into the NIDB on behalf of NIMC.

Also, to ease the process of NIN enrollment and SIM Integration, the Minister launched the mobile App where a citizen can link the NIN with the SIM card and submit filled downloadable form virtually.

The minister also directed the immediate suspension of some National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) staff in Bauchi and Kaduna over allegations of extortion.

The  suspension was said to be due to a public outcry that some NIMC staff were capitalising on the rush for NIN enrolment to extort Nigerians.

In addition, Pantami approved the establishment of a National Identity Number (NIN) enrolment centre at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide support for members of the Diplomatic Corps.

With the February deadline for the enrolment, verification and linking of the National Identification Numbers (NIN) to Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards, a comprehensive biometric information of citizens is surely the best option to checkmating insecurity and criminality in the country.

Abbas Badamasi, Wuye Abuja