Consumers of telecoms services under the aegis of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers have said the nation has a long way to go regarding the issuance of the National Identity Numbers, expressing worries over how applicants are being extorted at the various official registration points amid poor service delivery.
According to the President of the association, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, it costs as much as N10,000 to get a NIN within a short period, and N5,000 within one week.
He alleged that officials of the National Identity Management Commission at Alausa now connive with “agents” to extort NIN applicants.
He said, “I visited some of the NIN centres, unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. At the independent centres, you have to pay before they attend to you. But when you go to the NIMC office at Alausa, they have agents.
“If you want your NIN the day you register for it, you will have to part with N10,000. If you must collect it the following day or within a week, you will part with N5,000. The minister can send someone in mufti to confirm this.
“It is an open racket. It is cheaper outside. If you want to get your NIN from independent agents, you will pay a smaller fee of about N1,000 to N2,000, but they will give you a tracking number for two or more weeks. With them, you won’t be able to get your actual NIN card until much later.”
According to Ogunbanjo, the NIMC does not seem to have the capacity to upload all the data it gets and this has created an opportunity for its officials to selectively upload data, and allegedly rip off Nigerians.
He added, “The NIMC does not have the capacity to upload all the data that is coming from everywhere in the country. Because of this, they selectively upload data and make money off it at Alausa.
“The capacity of the NIMC is very limited for now, they do not have the capacity for big uploads, and this is fueling the extortion going at the NIMC’s office. They have agents. And this is very unfortunate. You now have to pay to get a NIN.
“Their agents collect money from you, this is extortion and exploitation, and it is uncalled for. This impacts on the people’s willingness to want to get their NINs.”
He added that this would only lead to further delays in the SIM-NIN linkage process.
Further findings by our correspondent revealed that the claims were true. Some passport applicants who spoke to our correspondent revealed they had to part with as much as between N5,000 and N10,000 to get their NINs within two to three days.
“I wanted to get my passport at the Nigerian Immigration Office in Alausa and I was told I needed a NIN to do that. I discovered it would take me about two weeks to get the NIN. I got to the NIMC office and I was introduced to an agent who demanded N5,000 to get the NIN for me in three days. He actually worked in partnership with an official in NIMC. I later got the NIN after three days,” a woman who identified herself as Mrs Flora Johnson, told our correspondent.
Another applicant, who simply identified himself as Mr Godpower Felix, narrated how he had to part with money to obtain the NIN at the NIMC office in Alausa.
“If you don’t part with money, you may have to wait for at least two weeks to get the NIN. But if you need it within three days, say for passport purpose, like myself, you need to part with money. It is a big business. You need to pay if you want them to give you priority over others,” he said.
An official of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, shared a similar view.
According to him, the government will continue to extend the deadline for the SIM-NIN linkage because the NIMC doesn’t have the capacity to verify large numbers of NINs.
In October 2021, an NIMC official had disclosed to The PUNCH that the pressure on the commission’s server was slowing down its capacity to instantly generate NINs.
The source had said, “You can still register for the NIN as a new customer but you cannot generate NIN as quickly as you could in the past. This is because of the rush for registration and the pressure on our system.”
According to the source, the process is being slowed down by deduplication. The source said deduplication is what ensures that the biometric data is not the same as any other person’s own, adding that it now takes about a week to get this done.
The source added, “All these are happening because of the rush on the system. It is overwhelming and some expatriates have been coming to look at it but the problem is funding.”