FG Mulls NIN Enrolment Suspension over COVID-19 Risks
•Threatens to stop Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kaduna train services
•Signs MoU on $1.959bn Kano-Maradi rail project
By Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The federal government has said that it may suspend the ongoing enrolment for National Identification Number (NIN) in view of the large crowds at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) offices in many states.
It stated the decision is necessary to protect Nigerians from COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government has also threatened to shut down the Lagos-Ibadan and the Abuja-Kaduna train services if any case of the pandemic is detected among passengers.
However, it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mota-Engil Group on the construction of $1.959 billion Kano-Maradi standard gauge railway lines.
This is coming as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has suspended the ongoing screening of applicants for recruitment due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NIN registration resumed nationwide yesterday after NIMC workers suspended the strike they commenced on Thursday over poor welfare package, lack of tools and risk of exposure to COVID-19.
But speaking on a live TV programme yesterday, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the ongoing NIN enrolment may be suspended over COVID-19 risks.
He also charged the NIMC to go back to the drawing board and re-order the enrolment process to avoid large crowds at its centres nationwide.
The minister, who is also a member of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, led by the Secretary to the Government to the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the government has a duty to protect Nigerians.
“I don’t feel good looking at the picture where people are gathered in multitude; it’s like a super-spreader event, which we don’t like. But I’m also aware that the relevant ministry, which is the communications and digital economy, is looking at this.
“My understanding is that the whole process may be suspended so as to reorder the whole process in terms of management of the crowd because it was never intended that it would become a rowdy process like that.
“We have a duty as government to ensure that people are protected; we also have a duty to ensure people comply within the limit of what is good for the society at large,” he added.
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) had ordered telecommunications companies to deactivate telephone lines of subscribers who failed to link their phones to their NINs.
It also gave subscribers with NINs till January 19 to link their NINs with their SIM cards while subscribers without NINs have February 9 deadline.
Besides the federal government has threatened to shut down the Lagos-Ibadan and the Abuja-Kaduna train services if any case of the pandemic is detected among passengers.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) had in December 2020 commenced operations of the 156km Lagos-Ibadan railway, a standard gauge rail.
Speaking on a separate live television programme yesterday, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said train passengers must comply with all COVID-19 protocols during their trip.
“If we see that we are conveying passengers who have COVID-19 from Lagos to Ibadan and Ibadan to Lagos, we will stop it just like we are threatened to stop the one from Kaduna to Abuja if people don’t comply with the COVID-19 protocols.
“Don’t forget that on Kaduna-Abuja, we convey 4,000 passengers in a day. Imagine that about 20 per cent have COVID-19, they can transmit COVID-19 to the entire passengers. The rate of transmission will be high. The same is applicable to Lagos. Everybody must comply with the COVID-19 protocols, wear your masks till the end of the journey,” he said.
The minister added that the Lagos-Ibadan railway project, which will be completed this month, will be inaugurated virtually by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Scare over the pandemic has also prompted the NDLEA to suspend the ongoing screening of applicants for recruitment.
NDLEA’s spokesman, Deputy Commander of Narcotics, Jonah Achema, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said the screening suspension was based on strict compliance with the directive of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN).
NDLEA had on January 8 released the list of shortlisted candidates.
The candidates, numbering 5,000, were due to appear at the agency’s academy, in Jos for screening and documentation between January 10 and January 23.
According to Achema, the minister ordered the suspension of the exercise given the current and alarming second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
“The agency is prepared to seek advice from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on the public health implications of such an exercise, especially as it relates to the adequacy and possibility of strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
“The screening team had been directed to suspend all actions and return to the National Headquarters, Abuja, immediately for further briefing.
“There shall be no prejudice against any candidate that turned up for the screening or that failed to do so,’’ he said.
FG Signs MoU on $1.959bn Kano-Maradi Rail Project
The federal government yesterday signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mota-Engil Group for the construction of $1.959 billion Kano-Maradi standard gauge railway lines.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, signed on behalf of the federal government while the Managing Director of Mota- Engil, Mr. Antonio Gvoea, signed on behalf of the contracting firm.
Amaechi, in statement made available to journalists in Abuja by the Director of Press of the ministry, Mr. Eric Ejiekwe, noted that the new railway corridor, will run through three states: Kano, Jigawa and Katsina and through Niger territory as far as Maradi.
Other cities that will be affected by the rail line in Nigeria are Danbatta, Kazaure, Daura, Mashi, Katsina and Jibiya.
“The 283,750 kilometre rail line besides developing freight and passenger transport, will be integrated with road transport and will make a great contribution to the local economy as well as an important development in the social sector,” the minister explained.
He added that the project duration is for 36 months and the contract type is Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC).