There are strong indications the Federal Government, through the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), may not achieve the National Identification Number (NIN)-Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) full linkage of mobile numbers in the country in the less than four weeks remaining to February 9, from now.
Findings by The Guardian showed that about 95 per cent of the 173 Agents and 30 state government/public sector institutions licensed by NIMC to conduct enrolment of all persons, including legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB) on behalf of the NIMC are yet to put anything in place for the exercise.
This development has further compounded the capacity of NIMC, whose 1000 enrolment centres spread across the country – inadequate to handle the process, and which necessitated the licensing of the agents – continued to witness a large daily turnout of Nigerians, who want to beat the February 9 deadline and avoid being cut off from the telephone networks. The implication of this is that the deadline date for the completion of linkage of existing NIN with all SIM cards as directed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami is not going to be feasible.
On December 15, 2020, the NCC, at the instance of the Minister, issued a statement ordering the suspension of the registration of new SIM cards by all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country while at the same time giving two weeks for persons with SIM cards to link them with the NIN or risk the numbers being suspended. The deadline was later extended by five weeks. Aside from the challenges of procuring the equipment for enrolment from offshore vendors, which could take several weeks or months due to foreign exchange scarcity, clearance from the ports could pose another potential hurdle. This is in addition to the gaps in workforce training for handlers of the new equipment, among others. The Director-General/Chief Executive of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, had last December explained in a statement that the agents were picked after successfully fulfilling all the conditions in the advertised expression of interest (EOI), which was done in 2019 as a first step towards the take-off of the National Digital Identity Ecosystem project. According to the statement announcing the licensees, a breakdown of the successful licensees shows that 16 state governments were licensed, including Abia, Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Lagos, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Oyo, Ogun, Sokoto, and Zamfara states.