Much as the idea of registering the Nigerian people digitally for security, planning and sundry purposes is desirable, the conduct of the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which is saddled with the responsibility of doing that job, has in recent times been less than satisfactory. Going by reports in the media, the entire National Identify Number (NIN) registration process has become a disingenuous way of fleecing hapless citizens thronging the NIMC’s offices as they struggle to beat the deadline for NIN and Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) linkage as directed by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy amidst a raging Covid-19 pandemic.
Between the end of last year and now, the country has been gripped by the fever of NIN registration. The fever has been inflicted on them by the tardiness and corruption in the NIMC, which has been mired in controversy since its inception.
By the end of last week, the ‘price’ of the NIN registration allegedly hovered between N5000 and N7000 per applicant. NIN registration is of course officially free, just like bail is theoretically free in police stations across the country, until you actually try to get someone released on bail. Although NIMC officials are living in denial, ostensibly to cover their flanks, many Nigerians have been complaining of the shady deals associated with the registration process. It is sad and unfortunate that digital registration of Nigerian citizenship could entail this laborious and entirely unpleasant process, especially given the subsisting environment of the coronavirus pandemic.
To be sure, it is quite easy and convenient to create a stampede and work desperate citizens up into a frenzy, then fleece them. Apart from the avoidable stampedes, the risk to public health is huge. It is disturbing that with all the stress and unpleasantness of the registration processes, the number of registered citizens to date is still negligible. Many queue up for hours, bickering and fusing, only to end up with no NIN because the officials could not attend to them. And the reported rudeness to applicants by registration officials is quite another issue. There must be a better way of registering people. Nigerians should not be made to suffer unnecessarily in order to document or validate their citizenship. The idea of the Nigerian government waiting for criminally short deadlines to expire before extending it again and again is cruel and inhuman. The procedure for the registration of the Nigerian citizenship should be humane, considerate and respectful. It should not assail human dignity. It should also be continuous and without cheeky deadlines.
The extortionate climate surrounding NIN registration is really obnoxious and indefensible. The registration processes should be done without inflicting unnecessary injuries on the psyche of the Nigerian people. The government says that the process is free, but the NIMC, with its tardiness and corruption, has been allowing unscrupulous officials to make huge heists from the beleaguered process, cashing in on the desperation of applicants. The policies of government are supposed to be proactive and inventive, making life easier for the people.
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