GETTING Nigerians to register for anything is usually an uphill task for all involved. Whether it is registration of voters, getting vaccinated against COVID-19, population census, or registering Subscriber Identity Module, SIM, Cards, the experience is the same.
The citizens often have to be threatened with punitive deadlines before they respond at the last minute. The nightmarish experience in getting the people to register for the linkage of their National Identity Numbers, NIN, and SIM Cards is very typical.
With a few days to the October 31, 2021 deadline for the linkage of all SIM Cards to NINs, we are far from achieving total coverage.
As of the beginning of this month, the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, said it had identified 143 million out of the 207 million registered SIM Cards across all telecom networks with NINs.
With Nigerians possessing average of three to four SIM cards on their mobile devices, these SIM Cards are now linked to about 60 million NINs. What this means is that over 60 million SIM Cards belonging to 15 to 20 million SIM Card subscribers remain outside the NIMC’s identity threshold.
The obvious import of this is that the NIMC, the National Communications Commission, NCC, and other stakeholders involved in the linkage of these crucial security and identity modules must shift (yet again) the deadline for the linkage.
Alternatively, the NCC must mandate the telecom service providers to cut off service to any SIM Card that is not linked to NIN.
We prefer the option of blacklisting unlinked SIM Cards until their owners are fully captured and issued with their NINs. We also urge the federal and state governments to make the enjoyment of crucial government and corporate services only available to those who present their NINs.
We must let people know that if they do not have their NINs, they stand the risk of forfeiting their basic citizenship rights because the system does not know of their existence.
The importance of the NIN-SIM Card linkage cannot be emphasised enough. Most crimes, such as terrorism, kidnapping, advance fee fraud and banditry cannot thrive without communication which is enabled by the SIM Cards.
So long as these SIM Cards remain unlinked to NINs, these heinous and violent crimes assailing our country will be impossible to check.
It is also important to ensure that all eligible voters are linked to the NINs to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s drive to technologically upgrade the 2023 general elections succeeds.
With Voter’s Cards and NINs linked, it will be easier to minimise electoral crimes in the same way that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, was able to curtail exam malpractice this year.
We must get tough to get everyone on board.