…Say it’s impossible to link 170m subscribers’ lines with NIN in 2 weeks
…Unjustifiable, unnecessary, stop it, SERAP tells Buhari
…Lawyer drags FG, NCC to court over NIN registration deadline
By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Olasunkanmi Akoni & By Henry Ojelu
Workers in the nation’s Communications industry under the aegis of Private Telecommunications and Communications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PTECSSAN, weekend rejected the two-week deadline given by the Federal Government to telecommunications operators to block subscribers’ lines that failed to link them up with the National Identification Number, NIN.
This came as Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, asked President Muhammadu Buhari, to stop NCC directives on NIN and the threat to block SIM cards that failed to meet the deadline, describing directives as “burdensome, unjustified, unnecessary.”
Similarly, a former second Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Monday Ubani, asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to stop the Nigerian government and NCC from blocking SIM cards not linked to the NIN.
PTECSSAN in a statement by its President and General Secretary, Opeyemi Tomori and Okonu Abdullahi, respectively, said that on December 15, 2020, the Federal Government through the NCC directed that GSM operators should require their subscribers to link up their NIN to their SIMs within two weeks and failure to do so the operators should block the lines of the concerned subscribers.
The union noted that the NCC statement went further to threaten the operators with sanctions which include withdrawal of their licenses if they fail to effect the blockade.
Among others, PTECSSAN contented that it was impossible to achieve the deadline, saying “to register about one hundred and seventy million Nigerians that are yet to be registered within two weeks is a tall order that can never be met with the present encumbrances in the present approach of registering people.”
The union asked the Federal Government not to punish Nigerians for its ineptitude, lamenting that “we are disturbed by the insensitiveness of the Federal Government in the statement. We are forced to believe that, as usual, the government wants to punish Nigerians for its own ineptitude. At this point in time that there is pervasive hardship in the land brought about by banditry, terrorism, thuggery and increasing high cost of living occasioned by the government’s hike in electricity tariff and fuel pump price, we do not expect the government to impose a new and avoidable hardship on Nigerians through this directive.
“Rather than issue deadlines and threats on linking up the NIN to SIMs, what we believe the government should do is to address the bottlenecks encountered by Nigerians in the process of registration which have prevented majority of them from obtaining their NIN. Is government aware that it is only about 43million Nigerians that have been able to obtain NIN since its introduction over seven years ago? To expect Nigerians to register and obtain NIN in order to link it up with their SIMs within two weeks, what they could not obtain for this number of years beat our imagination.
“Nigerians have suffered immensely trying to obtain the NIN to no avail. Stories told by those that have registered are not pleasant. Some were leaving their homes for the registration centres as early as 4am daily for weeks before they could register. While those that could not withstand the rigour part with monies to hasten things up for them.
“We implore the government to withdraw the directive because it was not well thought-out and is highly unachievable. To register about 170 million Nigerians that are yet to be registered within two weeks is a tall order that can never be met with the present encumbrances in the present approach of registering the people.
“By giving two weeks to Nigerians that have not registered to do so will surely add more hardship on them. The government is practically telling them to abandon their businesses and whatever they are doing that bring income for them within that long period of time.
“Also, with the second wave of COVID-19 in the country, Nigerians will not be able to storm the registration centres without contracting the virus.
“Furthermore, we are in the Yuletide period during which a lot of Nigerians travel across the country to celebrate with their families. To ask them to register at this time is as good as putting paid to their festivities.
“In the light of the above, we implore the government to rather shift its focus to getting more Nigerians register seamlessly. Registration centres should be brought closer to the people. By this we are suggesting that there should be at least two registration centres in each of the wards throughout the federation.
“If and when all remaining Nigerians have been able to register and obtain their NIN, they need not be bothered to link their NINs with their operators; the government through the National Identification Management Commission, NIMC, and NCC, should liaise with the telecoms operators to synchronize the NIN with the subscribers’ SIMs. Afterall, the operators still rely on NIMC to authenticate NINs provided by subscribers before they can link them up to their SIMS.
“We understand the importance of having a comprehensive database for the country and at the same time having NINs linked with SIMs. We implore government to adopt the best of approaches in putting them in place. All these can be done without necessarily causing hardship to Nigerians.”
SERAP writes Buhari
On its part, SERAP urged President Buhari to instruct the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, and Director-General of NIMC, Mr Aliyu Abubakar to withdraw the directives.
SERAP, in a letter to Buhari, by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, maintained that the data being sought already exists on several platforms, including the Bank Verification Numbers, BVN, driver’s license, international passport, and voters’ card.
The letter read: “Instead of forcing Nigerians to register, threatening telecom service providers with sanctions, and exposing Nigerians to the risks of CoviD-19, your government ought to make sure that the NIMC discharges its statutory functions to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies, and make use of the information collected.
“The request for Nigerians to register for NIN is burdensome, unjustified and unnecessary. It would end up serving no other purpose than to threaten and violate the rights of Nigerians, and create a ‘chilling effect’ on citizens’ ability to participate in the fight against corruption in the country, and thereby seriously undermining the government’s oft-repeated commitment to transparency and accountability.
“There is neither a pressing legal or practical need for this registration, which threatens Nigerians’ human rights, especially at a time your government is warning Nigerians about the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Blocking Nigerians from using their SIM cards would amount to a blatant violation of their rights to freedom of expression and access to information, and have a ‘chilling effect’ on the enjoyment of other human rights.
“We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to stop the unnecessary registration of NIN, withdraw the threat to block SIM cards, and take concrete measures to promptly ensure that NIMC is able to faithfully discharge its statutory functions to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies into the National Identity Database, within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.
“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the interest of millions of Nigerians.
“One of the stated purposes of NIMC as elaborated in Section 5 (a) of the NIMC Act is to harmonise and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies into a national identity database. If the NIMC cannot perform this important statutory duty, then it has failed to achieve an obvious part of its legislative purpose.
“This push for registration will place a substantial burden on the exercise of human rights by Nigerians. It is also patently contrary to the objectives of the Nigerian NCC as contained in Section 1[g] of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, which is to protect the rights and interest of service providers and consumers within Nigeria.’
“These rights presumably include the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, life and personal security.
The push for registration for NIN is a bad initiative, and cannot find support in existing laws, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations.”
Lawyer drags FG to court
Meanwhile, a former second vice-president of the NBA, Mr Monday Ubani, has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to stop the Nigerian government and NCC from disconnecting all SIM cards not linked to National Identity Numbers.
Ubani, in the suit argued that the directive of government was unreasonable and the threat to block peoples’ SIM cards is an expression of intent to infringe on their rights to property.
According to him, the two weeks ultimatum given for the SIM registration is “unreasonably too short and unreasonable and impracticable in view of the large population of Nigerians and the slow rate of registration by NIMC.”
Defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria, Attorney-General of the Federation, Nigerian Communications Commission and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
Glo simplifies linking of NIN with phone number
Data grandmasters, Globacom, has rolled out a simplified short code for its subscribers to link their SIMs to their National Identification Numbers, NIN, as directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
“All our esteemed customers can now link their National Identification Numbers to their mobile numbers by simply sending ‘UPDATENIN NIN FirstName and LastName’ to 109. For example, send ‘UPDATENIN 12345678903 Chidera Abdul-Ola’ to 109″, Globacom said in a press release issued in Lagos.
The telecommunications firm added that with the short code, subscribers could easily link their SIMs with their NIN on their handheld devices, using a short code without visiting Gloworld outlets.
Globacom encouraged customers without a NIN to visit any of the 173 Federal Government centres and 30 state governments/public sector institutions licensed to conduct the enrolment of the National Identity Number across the country.
The network explained that the short code is to simplify the process of compliance with the new directive by NCC, adding that this was part of its avowed commitment to seeing that its teeming customers have unhindered access to its products and services.
According to the company, customers who are yet to get their NIN but have already registered with the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, can dial *346# to retrieve it.
Glo customers can contact any of its customer contact channels, or visit https://www.gloworld.com/ng/nin for further support and enquiries.