With eight days to the February 9 deadline for enrolment, verification and linking of National Identification Number (NIN) to Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards in the country, calls for more time by subscribers and stakeholders alike have heightened.
Already, the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), claimed to have collected over 50 million NINs and transferred same to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for verification.
But Airtel, at the weekend, said 23.4 million of its customers were yet to submit their special digits. Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Africa, Raghunath Mandava, who made the disclosure, clarified that the firm had taken receipt of 21 million NINs of its 44.4 million subscriber base.
According to him, the telco has made significant progress in collection and is working on improved connectivity with the NIMC database to verify the NINs.
He said: “We have already made significant progress capturing NIN and building our database with the NIMC. So far, out of Airtel Nigeria’s 44.4 million customers, we have collected NINs for 21 million – that’s 47 per cent of our base.
“To finish this registration process, we must verify these NINs we have with the NIMC. This requires improved connectivity with the NIMC database, which is currently being developed for all Nigerian mobile operators.”
The agitation for extension in deadline, The Guardian learnt, is borne out of the frustration faced by subscribers, who on a daily basis, amid the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic, besiege NIMC offices and outlets nationwide.
Some customers are equally worried about their booking that reads March.
The situation is being compounded by the inability of the Federal Government’s licensees, including the telecoms operators, to begin immediate capturing of Nigerians.
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had, last December, licensed 203 public and private institutions for the exercise. While MTN started with some 14,000 equipment earlier in January and awaits 40,000 more to expand services across the federation, it was only just last week that Airtel and Globacom began enrolment.
Checks showed that nothing had been heard from 9mobile, National Pension Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria (through the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems Plc), National Population Commission, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Joint Tax Board and Nigeria Postal Service, among others.
In a chat, President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, appealed to government to consider the economic implication of blocking SIM cards.
MEANWHILE, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NIMC for the safety of workers and applicants.
The gesture followed the minister’s (Dr. Isa Pantami) resolve for seamless enrolment of Nigerians and legal residents into the National Identity Database.
A statement at the weekend by the agency’s Head of Corporate Communications, Kayode Adegoke, said the items included hand sanitisers, face masks and hand-held thermometers.