NIN & SIM Card link: Brilliant policy, poor execution – Seye Olaniyonu

NIN & SIM Card link: Brilliant policy, poor execution – Seye Olaniyonu

The hasty approach in executing the linking of SIM cards and National Identity Number (NIN) is the latest in the bungling of a good policy by the Federal Government.

As the popular saying goes, the problem is not policies or laws, but proper execution and implementation.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Monday issued a statement; asking telecoms operators to block all mobile lines not linked to the NIN by 31st of December. That’s more or less a 14-day ultimatum. No sensitization. Nothing.

Indeed, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Pantami; as well as the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof Umar Dambatta deserve some lashing. In policy space, this is a rookies’ mistake. Issuing an unreasonable deadline is almost an unpardonable gaffe.

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The directive to telcos on the NIN is certainly nothing but an unreasonable deadline; one that will only cause uproar, panic and exploitation. First, what is the total number of mobile subscribers in Nigeria? What is the total number of persons with NIN? How convenient is it to get enrolled for the NIN?

While my 85-year-old grandpa who listens to the radio constantly could have gotten the news; he definitely has no strength to go and struggle to get the NIN within two weeks.

Worse still, the directive is coming at a time when Nigeria is right in the middle of a second wave of COVID-19 infections. On Thursday, the country once again broke the record for new daily infections, with 1,145 new cases; the highest ever recorded in a single day. An expected rush by Nigerians to get enrolled, which has already commenced, will only worsen the infection cycle.

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One wonders if the people who come up with these decisions do any form of serious introspection.

Let’s not get it twisted, this is a brilliant policy. We must sync our data to have a reliable national database. The benefit of this policy, particularly on security, is huge. This policy can help in dealing with rampaging kidnapping, help to monitor kidnappers and even track all these bandits. But this knee-jerk reaction is a bloody no.

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In fact, the execution of this policy ought have commenced years ago. But unfortunately, we have not.

Even the House of Representatives on Wednesday supported the initiative, but faulted the time frame for the implementation. Pantami and Danbatta must go back to the drawing board and develop a realistic execution plan. First, the sensitization must be thorough. Secondly, the process of getting the NIN must be improved. And finally, the process of linking the SIM cards to NIN should be online and simple.

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) recently announced the outsourcing of data collection. That is a right step in the right direction.

The NIN should be like our own social security number. In fact, it should be issued at birth. Every child registered at birth in Nigeria should have an NIN.

The government must hasten the process of synchronization of data. With NIN, there is no need for other data collection by Federal Road Safety Corps, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, WAEC, passport office, and other numerous agencies. The NIN should be sufficient.

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The government should integrate all other data and it must form the national database that must be used by security agents; healthcare sector, National Planning unit, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics and social welfare agencies.

The benefits of NIN are numerous. But Pantami is putting everything at risk with his Abacha style ultimatum.

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