It required little or no mental effort to know that there was no way the deadline of 9th February for Nigerians to link their National Identification Numbers, NIN, with their SIMs or telephone numbers, would be met. It was a no-brainer; yet the government and its officials kept insisting they would stick to it.
Therefore the government’s announcement that it has extended the deadline for Nigerians to complete the process by eight more weeks was expected, even if the officials were still insisting on a mission impossible.
The new deadline is now 6th of April, 2021, according to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
February 9th was the previous deadline, extended from December 30, 2020 and then January 19, 2021, respectively, for NIN registration and linkage.
The government is hoping that the extension will give Nigerians and legal residents more time to integrate their NIN with their SIM.
A total of 56.18 million NINs are said to have been collected by mobile network operators since the exercise began. However, the number of SIMs said to be in circulation is about 160 million. 56.18 million NINs is therefore a small percentage of the operating SIMs in the country, although each NIN is usually tied to an average of 3 to 4 SIMs and this infers that the current figure may account for a significant portion of the existing SIMs. But not all these NINs have been successfully linked, judging from personal experience and that of others.
Some SIMs are also in the Diaspora, most of them being held by Nigerians who bought them before they left the country.
There are also situations where some networks are encountering problems linking NINs with SIMs. For instance, I have three phone numbers from different Nigerian networks; only one has responded to say it has linked my NIN successfully after I sent it to them by SMS. Another wrote to me to say they could not link my NIN and I should go to NIMC centre to get the correct NIN, which is laughable because apart from the first Telco successfully linking my NIN, I have been using the NIN for about two years and confirmed it for pension and tax purposes, while Truecaller identifies me as the owner of the number. I have told the unsuccessful network that I would prefer to throw away their SIM than go and queue at a NIN registration centre where crowding is the order of the day. We had several back and forth emails and their last one said :
“I completely understand how taxing this is, but the SIM registration of the line and the information on the NIN portal needs to correlate for a successful link. The information on Truecaller is not a reflection of the registration information on the line as …….. does not release customer`s information to third parties. You need to register the line again with your information so it can be linked. There is currently a ban on SIM registrations, this ban was put in place by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) since the 9th of December 2020. Once the ban has been lifted, please visit the nearest ……….center with your NIN to register and link the line”.
Apart from sending my NIN to the third network, I have visited two of their offices where they told me NCC barred them from linking NIN and they don’t know what they have done. Their response to my SMS registration is that they have received it and will revert after validating. They have kept quiet since then.
I am sure other people are going through this same problem so it is not surprising that the deadline has been moved.
The Nigerian Communications Commission said in its statement that, “The federal government of Nigeria applauds all Nigerians and persons of other nationalities for their understanding, cooperation and for enthusiastically participating in the exercise”.
As part of its effort to ensure that citizens register for NINs so they can submit them for linkage to their number, the government has licensed Telcos to join over 1,060 registration centres for NIN are reported to have been activated and made operational by NIMC. The Telecom companies are also said to have opened hundreds of centres and are deploying resources to open thousands of other NIN enrolment centres in the states of Nigeria.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, is reported to have met on Monday with key stakeholders, under the aegis of the Ministerial Task force on NIN-SIM Registration, made up of the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC), National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), as well as executives Telecoms companies MTN, Airtel, 9Mobile, Globacom, Ntel, Spectranet and SMILE.
Over 1,060 registration centres for NIN are reported to have been activated and made operational by NIMC across the country, while Mobile Network Operators have opened hundreds of centres and are rapidly deploying resources to open thousands of other NIN enrolment centres across states of the country.
The hope is that these extra centres will reduce the crowding in the existing locations and enable Nigerians get their NINs. The various Telecoms networks also need to provide more robust systems in place that will ensure quick linkage of the NINS and SIMs, instead of the current situation where some networks succeed while other do not, in the linkage.
For now, the new deadline for linkage is Tuesday 6th of April 2021. We hope all comes out successful.
IMAGE CREDIT: nimc.gov.ng, ncc.gov.ng
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.