By Emma Okonji
Following the two weeks ultimatum given to the federal government by the workers of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to meet their demands, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has called on government to honour the workers’ requests.
Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, who spoke with THISDAY, said the need to honour the demands of the workers was necessary in order to keep the workers in their duty posts and avoid another strike action.
The NIMC’s union of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) last week Friday, suspended a nationwide strike it embarked upon last Thursday, after the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, intervened with a promise that their demands would be addressed by government.
The union, which gave government two weeks ultimatum to meet all their demands as stated, however warned that it would redirect the workers to resume the strike action, should government fail to act within two weeks as promised.
The workers’ union, on Wednesday last week, held a congress, after which it directed its members to suspend all enrolment of National Identification Number (NIN) and to embark on a nationwide strike, to press home their demands.
The workers are asking for better welfare package, better working tools and personal protective equipment (PPE) against the spread of coronavirus.
The workers are also demanding for a review of the ‘lopsided and irregular’ promotion done in 2017 and 2020, implementation of the approved salary structure and its appropriation in the 2021 annual budget as well as adequate provision of work tools for civic data enrollment.
They are also demanding for the provision of adequate monthly operational stipends, work tools necessary for the process of enrolment of civic data.
According to Adebayo, the poor work condition of NIMC staff as stated by the workers, should be addressed, since they interface with different people while discharging their duties. He said if federal government should handle the issues raised by the workers with levity and allow them to resume the strike action after two weeks from the day the strike was suspended, as threatened by the workers, it would likely truncate the ongoing NIN enrolment exercise, which he said, would cause a great set back in telecoms development and erode its achievements in the past years.
“The implications of any strike action are that the NIN enrolment will be paralysed and Nigerians will not be able to get their SIM cards integrated with their NINs, which of course will be a challenge for government in implementing SIM-NIN integration exercise.
“Without NIN, Nigerians can not integrate their SIM with NIN as directed by government. Again, without NIN, no one can embark on activation and replacement of old SIM cards as well as registration of new SIM cards. So it becomes a challenge for both government and the subscribers, if they cannot enrol for NIN as a result of any strike action embarked upon by NIMC staff,” Adebayo said.
He said government must rise up to the demands of NIMC staff and ensure the staff will not return to strike, in order to maintain a steady flow of the NIN enrolment exercise.
“The earlier government resolves the issue, the better for the country. Any strike action will certainly slowdown the wheel of progress at NIMC and it will definitely impact negatively on NIN enrolment in the country,” Adebayo added.
Pantami, had in December last year, directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to enforce the implementation of the integration of all registered SIM cards to NIN, and gave a window of two weeks to complete the exercise, which was later extended by six weeks to end January 19, 2021, for those who have already registered for NIN, and February 19, 2021 for those who were yet to register for NIN.
Pantami warned that subscribers who failed to integrate their SIM cards with their NIN, would risk outright disconnection of their SIM cards.
The fear of being disconnected, compelled Nigerians to throng the offices of NIMC nationwide, to enrol and obtain their NIN. Worried about the crowd, which became difficult to manage, NIMC staff demanded for better welfare package, and additional work tools to manage the situation, but the inability of government to meet their demands, led to the strike action.