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Another Extension of SIM-NIN Linkage to March 2022: Will This Be The Last?

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Since the National Identification Number (NIN) and The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) linkage policy was introduced by the Federal Government in 2020, the exercise has been extended on several occasions. With The National Communications Commission (NCC), the Nigeria Identity Management Commission (NIMC), and the telecommunications giants devising various means of making the registration process faster and less arduous for their subscribers in the last one year, it is a bit disturbing that the obstacles stalling the registration of all Nigerian within the timeline still exist.

Just as Nigerians were settling down to savour the last holidays, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami announced the approval of the Federal Government to further extend the deadline for the National Identification Number (NIN)-Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) data verification to the 31st of March, 2022.

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According to the minister, the approval came following the request by stakeholders, including citizens, legal residents, and Nigerians in the diaspora, the Federal Government has extended the deadline of the exercise to the 31st of March, 2022. This extension, he explained would enable the Federal Government to consolidate the gains of the process and accelerate the enrolment of Nigerians in key areas like the remote areas, diaspora, schools, hospitals, worship centres, and the registration of legal residents.

The Honourable Minister has however implored Nigerians and legal residents to enroll for their NINs and link with their SIMs during this period of extension as more services will be requiring the NIN for identification. He also reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to support the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in ensuring that the objectives of the exercise are achieved.

Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director of Public Affairs at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and Mr. Kayode Adegoke, Head of Corporate Communications of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), in a joint statement issued last week said the stakeholders applauded the Federal Government for the significant growth in the number of NIN enrollments, and the increased drive to enlighten Nigerians and legal residents in the country.

The regulatory authorities stated that as of December 30, 2021, the National Identity Management Commission had issued over 71million NINs with 14,000 enrollment centres set up across Nigeria.

Dr. Adinde and Mr. Adegoke further disclosed that NIMC has set up enrollment centres in 31 countries of the world to cater to Nigerians in the Diaspora.
According to NCC and NIMC, the unprecedented growth in the National Identity Database to over 71 million unique NINs in such a short period, with about three to four SIMs linked to a NIN, reflects the concerted effort of the Federal Government, the Nigerian populace, and legal residents.
The last deadline for all Nigerians to link their SIM with NIN was December 31, 2021.
At that time, it was stated that there were over 9,599 enrolment systems and over 8,000 NIN enrolment centres within and outside the country for the exercise. And so far, the NIMC has issued 66 million unique NINs, and so the Federal Government truly deserves commendation for this level of achievement made regarding SIM-NIN registration exercise.

It will be recalled the Federal Government issued a stern directive that SIM cards that were not linked to NIN would be blocked, maintaining its stand that telecommunications companies that failed to block phone numbers of their subscribers who have not linked their SIM to NIN, would have their operating licences withdrawn.

In December 2020, sales of new SIM cards by telecommunication companies were put on hold to allow the Federal Government to carry out a comprehensive audit of the Subscriber Registration Database, but the government lifted the ban on the registration of new SIM on the condition that new subscribers must link their SIM to the NIN.
At that time, the challenge was arranging suitable centres like schools, worship centres, among others, for the registration exercise, particularly in remote areas where people encountered a lot of difficulties during the process.

On December 30, 2020, NIMC issued the first deadline on the linkage of SIM to NIN by all subscribers, and a new year ushered in January 19 as the second deadline. There were extensions of deadlines on February 9, April 6, May 9, June 30, July 26, October 31 and December 31, 2021. And now, the deadline has further been extended until 31st March 2022. Will the Federal Government keep extending the deadlines?

Granted there were hiccups intermittently over the period. In January 2021 NIMC offices across the country were under lock and key following an industrial strike, leaving many people who had besieged the commission for the registration stranded. The educational sector also had its fair share of the problems associated with the linkage of SIM to NIN because the code provided by the Joint Matriculation and Examinations Board (JAMB) for authenticating applicants’ NIN responded with an error, implying that the applicants’ NIN was invalid. This hitch in the registration exercise caused unnecessary tension for millions of candidates who applied for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME).
Despite COVID-19 safety protocols on social and physical distancing, Nigerians stormed NIMC’s offices and centres across the federation to beat the registration deadline.
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Eventually, telecommunication companies have been empowered by the Federal Government to register applicants for their NINs, to reduce the large crowd that besieged NIMC offices all over the federation, and to flout social distancing protocols amidst the prevalence of COVID-19.

Numerous efforts have been made by telecommunication companies to make the SIM to NIN registration a less stressful exercise, and some have even launched portals, while some have created USSD codes to make linkage easier for their subscribers.

Since telecommunication companies are actively involved in the SIM to NIN registration exercise and all the agencies involved are equal to the task as well, then the table is set. it is about time that all Nigerians take the required line of action within the allotted three months while the process of enrolment can continue at the NIMC registration offices and a few other designated centres after the deadline. Nigerians must respond positively to the great efforts of The National Communications Commission (NCC), the Nigeria Identity Management Commission (NIMC), and other bodies involved. No nation handles emergency national registration in perpetuity. It is time to focus on other pressing national issues.

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