Recently, the federal government directed all telecommunication service providers to link all subscribers’ SIMs to their National Identification Numbers, NINs.

According to the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, after the deadline, all SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks.

Mr Pantami said this became imperative to consolidate the achievements of last year’s SIM registration audit and improve the performance and sanity of the sector.

The minister explained that urgent drastic measures became inevitable to improve the integrity and transparency of the SIM registration process.

No doubt, the government’s policy is laudable as the plan is predicated on the need to improve efforts to protect lives and property of citizens.

The socio-economic implications are also significant.

NIN registrations are currently concentrated in states with major cities.

People in rural and conflict-affected areas, the poor and internally displaced, and women are all less likely to have NIN.

Therefore, the Nigeria Communication Commission, NCC’s policy could end up taking away mobile connectivity from some of the most vulnerable people in society.

It behooves the NCC to fix the ease of registration as identified by the agency.

In February this year, the World Bank approved one hundred and fifteen million dollars in financing to support the NIMC’s efforts in establishing a national ID database with a target of raising total NIN enrolments to one hundred and forty-eight million people by July 2024.

According to the project appraisal document, NIMC will revise its approach to make the registration process more inclusive: by reducing the number of documents required, making offline registration possible and, most importantly, partnering with other agencies and mobile network operators to supplement national ID registration efforts.

Following through with the proposed changes would vastly improve the ease with which Nigerians can get a national ID.

Nigerians have to be properly sensitized on the new policy as only a few educated persons who are conversant with happenings about the country might have heard about this instruction.

Also, government need to take into cognisance the complaints of citizens, legislators, and Civil Society Organizations about the NIN/SIM registration.

This is coming at a time when the country is undergoing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and state governments have begun another round of measures to stem the tide of the pandemic.

A visit to some of the offices of Nigerian Identity Management Commission, NIMC, showed that little or no attention is paid to the COVID-19 protocols as laid down by the government to reduce the spread of the disease.

It will be more beneficial for the government to ensure that conditions are created for a large number of Nigerians to be captured in the NIN registration to assist future national population census exercise in the country.

Rasheedah Makinde


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