· Students Most Affected As Millions Lose Access To Bank Accounts
- NIN Has Failed To Solve Insecurity Problems-Nigerians
Barring any last minute’s extension by the Federal Government, at least 120 million mobile subscribers may be disconnected from their network today as the deadline to link the National Identification Number, NIN, and Subscriber Identity Module, SIM, ended yesterday.
According to the latest statistics report by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC Nigeria has over 198.1 million active SIMs as of February 2022. Out of this figure, the NCC disclosed that as of December 2021, the National Identity Database has received over 71 million unique NINs leaving a whooping about 127 million active SIMs that may be disconnected based on the directive of the government if no further extension is granted.
Indications that no further extension might be issued emerged earlier this week when the NCC reminded Nigerians of the date stressing the importance of the exercise while urging Nigerians to do the needful.
In a statement jointly signed by spokespersons of the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Identity Management Commission, the government had approved an extension of the NIN-SIM linkage deadline to March 31.
“In preparation for the enforcement, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) urges citizens and legal residents to use the next few days to ensure that they complete the linkage,” the statement said.
“To this end, the Honourable Minister has further directed that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) should offer enrolment services round-the-clock for the next few days. Prof Pantami also thanks all those who have completed their NIN-SIM linkage.
“On behalf of the Honourable Minister, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, and the Director-General/CEO of NIMC, Engr. Aliyu Aziz, urge citizens and legal residents to take advantage of the window to complete the process of enrolment and verification within the next few days.”
Recall that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy introduced the NIN-SIM linkage back in December 2020 with an initial deadline of December 30, 2020.
Following public outcry and persistent system failures, the government extended the deadline by three weeks to January 19, for subscribers that already have NIN. For those that did not have NIN, the government shifted it by six weeks to February 9 and subsequently April 9, 2021, June 30, 2021, July 26, 30th December 2021 and March 30, 2022.
The March extension was to help the government consolidate on the gains of the process and accelerate the enrolment of Nigerians in remote areas, schools and diaspora.
Meanwhile, the process of the NIN-SIM integration has been fraught with glitches which have left subscribers flustered.
Mobile subscribers trying to complete SIM swaps across the country have been unable to do so due to the unavailability of the National Identity Management Commission’s NIN Verification Service (NVS).
Responding to complaints from users, MTN Nigeria said the “NIMC application is currently unavailable.
“Please bear with us as we are unable to process sim swap and upgrade requests at the moment. Feedback will be shared as soon as the issue is resolved. Apologies for the inconvenience this may cause you.”
In a statement by NIMC spokesperson Kayode Adegoke said “no one should be debarred of any service on the guise of NIN not being verified.”
“Even though the NIN verification service (NVS) might be down due to maintenance by one of our service providers of its infrastructure, the alternative platform – TOKENISATION is up and running,” the spokesperson said.
“There is the need to ask questions from the Telcos, NIS, Banks and others on the reason for turning down customers in the guise of NIN not being verified due to the temporary unavailability of the NVS, while the alternative platform- Tokenization is working!!!
“NIMC NVS platform is not the only verification platform available for use, but Tokenization which protects the identity of NIN holders is also up and running!!!
“And for accurate information, it is not a NIMC problem, rather, a government service provider has embarked on maintenance of its infrastructure, which has affected most government agencies that rely on it for the provision of IT service. But for us in NIMC, the TOKENIZATION is available for the verification of the NIN before rendering services.”
In a statement, the NIMC had confirmed the problem, which it attributed to ongoing maintenance.
“The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) wishes to inform the general public that its NIN verification Service (NVS) is temporarily unavailable due to the maintenance service being carried out by one of the Commission’s network service providers,” the statement said.
“The NIMC wants to assure the public that verification and authentication services would be restored once the maintenance is concluded.
“The Commission apologises for any inconvenience this might cause our esteemed customers, as all hands are on deck to ensure speedy restoration.
“Meanwhile, the public can make use of the alternative Tokenisation verification platform.”
The affected NIMC portal allows third parties to confirm the identity of customers.
Apart from telecoms firms, financial institutions and government agencies also rely on the service.
“The biggest implication is the loss of trust,” said technology analyst Fred Agbata. “People who depend on things manually are told technology is a better option, but then downtimes can make their lives more miserable.”
Agbata also noted that the NVS downtime should lead to questions about how safe the system is in protecting the information of millions of Nigerians.
Last month a hacker identified as Sam claimed he had found a bug on the NIMC server that could be used to breach the system.
The NIMC at the time debunked the hacker’s claims.
“Over the years, through painstaking efforts, NIMC has built a robust and credible system for Nigeria’s identity database,” a spokesperson said.
Students preparing to write the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board, JAMB happen to be the worst hit by the NIN-SIM integration issue.
Students across the country have cried out over their inability to get the profile code introduced by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB.
In an interview with one of the affected candidates, Shittu Mubarak, he recounted the difficulty he has gone through in getting his name registered for the exam, expressing his inability to register for the examination.
“I have an issue with this year’s Jamb registration and I have sent my NIN to 55019 as usual but I couldn’t get any profile code.
“To worsen the situation, they keep deducting 50 Naira each time I send it. I have spent N5,500 now which is even huger than the amount that they asked for the registration,” said Shittu.
“Whenever I press the NIN, it will bring the message that it has been registered earlier with a number. While checking the number, I saw that it was not my number and I had to go to the MTN office in Offa to track it. Unfortunately, all efforts to no avail. I spoke with one educational consultant and he urged me not to stop trying because I have already lost hope. Then, I continued the tough attempts daily and when I saw that the ugly message repeated itself, I went to the Jamb Office in Ilorin. The man I met there assured me to go back home on the grounds that they would call me when they have rectified the issue. I am still waiting for his call. I’m helpless. I have spent time and money.”
Its not only students who have felt the brunt of the NIN-SIM integration issue, those applying for driver’s license, those that have issues with their bank accounts also have tales of woes.
Meanwhile, Nigerians on social media are not impressed by the decision of FG to disconnect subscribers saying the purpose of the NIN-SIM integration has been defeated as terrorism and banditry is on the rise.
Recall that the main objective promoted by the Federal Government for the NIN-SIM integration was to assist in nailing terrorists, bandits and kidnappers.
The Federal Government had felt that its efforts to curtail ‘Bandits’ terrorising the North West and parts of the North Central failed because the criminals were able to freely use their GSM phones to call relatives of their kidnapped victims for ransom.
Hence, the Ministry of Communications issued a directive, mandating the linkage of the SIMs to NINs for easy tracing and apprehension of these terrorists.
However, many Nigerians do not believe this aim has been achieved.
According to Adeniran Akeem he lamented that not so much has been achieved since the process started.
“Since the invention of this NIN what has been the progress made so far? The main aim of this NIN is to track down the criminals so how many of them have they arrested? How many people have they tracked? They just like stressing the masses” he argued.
Melvin Bosco Melvin is also less impressed.
“The people that have registered since, what benefits do they have? Bandits are still kidnapping, terrorists are still terrorizing, Abuja-Kaduna rail was attacked and some people were kidnapped and used their phones to communicate to their people, how many people have you arrested? Please stop disturbing genuine Nigerians, we have already given up to this administration” he lamented.
Sunny Ndubueze Egwuatu wants the FG to devise another means to fight terrorism.
“They should find a solution to the insecurity in the country. NIN is not our problem since they cannot use it to track Bandits” he advised.