THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma
Three of the four GSM service providers lead the list of 203 firms the Nigerian Identity Management Commission appointed 16 December as Data Capture Agents to assist it with the registration of Nigerians into the identity database. It came on the commencement of a peremptory two-week deadline for citizens wishing to continue using their phone lines to ensure the integration of their National Identity Numbers (NIN) with their SIM cards domiciled with the telcos. I questioned the rationale for such an imperious order given the circumstance of COVID-19, environmental conditions, time of year, and experience of citizens with attempts at getting either the NIN or the national ID before it.
Thank you to the high officials who reached out with explanations and clarification on reading my article, “That Zombie Order on NIN-SIM Integration”, published across platforms. Your reasons are exciting and well-received. They hardly break the ice, though, as you well know given all the facts.
Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) rushed out a release of the list of 203 companies, composed of private and public sector agencies, the same day as the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) was informing citizens of the directive of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy on the 14-day wonder. The firms got notice of their success with the bidding to serve as Data Capture Agents one year into the exercise on that same day. Not surprisingly, many have yet to announce any plans or modalities for the activity even as we enter Day Five of 14.
Airtel is one of a few that has acknowledged even the fact of its new license. Like the other telcos, however, Airtel has focused its messaging on the integration of the existing NIN numbers. No one has mentioned what would happen to the over 100million subscribers on all networks who do not have NIN due to the failure of NIMC. Indications are that Airtel subscribers would be among the first to have access to NIN registration beginning this week.
On that list are Globacom Limited and MTN Nigeria Communications among the private firms. Rational minds would expect NIMC to have licensed the telcos more than a year ago to bridge the scandalous gap its inability to manage the registration created. Instead, it dilly-dallied.
The firms, taking from the first-named one in each alphabet, include Adebola Sobanjo Company Ltd, Basaleh Global Services Ltd, Citizen Helpline Ltd and Dantata Universal Services Nig Ltd. On the list are Electronic Payplus Ltd, File Solutions Limited, Greenmozis Ltd, Hunter & Cook Ltd and Ibolda Health International Ltd.
Yet others are Jetlink Limited, Kevone Consult Ltd and Las Ventures Global Services Ltd. Limited. There are Nehemic Nigeria Limited, Office Machines Nigeria Ltd, Pandus Powell’s Nig Ltd, Research and Data Solutions Limited and Samuiky Global Limited. Then there are Tech Systems Limited, Unified Payment Services, Vantage Management Consultancy Ltd, YWC Technologies Limited and Zebra Multiservices Ltd.
Watch them. Between the firms, NIMC and NCC, expect the unfolding of another Nigerian wonder. As many would recall, the first wonder happened during the country’s hosting of the FIFA Junior World Cup in 1999. FIFA official from Trinidad Jack Warner was astonished at the turnaround within days of his team declaring Nigeria unprepared for hosting the tournament. He announced a wonder.
Many issues arise from the handling of this exercise by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
Communication has been suboptimal. The news release announcing the licensing of 203 NIN Data Capture Agents was undated and unsigned. It was as if someone left room for deniability.
There was no coordination between the sister agencies. No official by Thursday 17 December has drawn a link between that list and efforts to ensure Nigeria meets the deadline it imposed on itself. Citizens and the media, left to their devices, have drawn varied conclusions, some not salutary.
Among the conclusions citizens drew is a linking of the policy to graft. Others say it is typical of Nigeria to hound citizens or frustrate them. Citizens must get endless identification papers: BVN, Passport, Driver’s license, Voters ID, National ID (NIN) and NIMC Slip.
The security bugaboo is at the heart of the current exercise. Kidnappers and all manner of deviants register SIM Cards with fake identities. They use images of their captives, pay off almajiri with tiny sums to pose for IDs. They then dispose of the SIMS after making those demand-calls. It is not easy to trace them.
The Nigerian approach to security is befuddling. This matter ultimately concerns us. However, officials convince themselves that citizens lack the intelligence to comprehend the issues or to act reasonably. So, they hide what is in plain sight.
They fail in risk communication. Officials ignore the principles. Those principles include creating and maintaining trust, acknowledging, and communicating even in the uncertainty, and coordinating. Others are transparency, proactivity in public communication, involving and engaging those affected, use of integrated approaches and building national capacity and national ownership of the challenge.
The agencies expect to sign up approximately 40m NINS and integrate them with SIMS during this first round of the exercise. Better late than never as we all pray that the increased number of Data Capture Agents means a reduction in exposure to crowds and the threat of COVID-19. It is critical to us all that NIMC and NCC succeed with this exercise.