National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) offices nationwide are bracing up for a deluge of enrollees expected to flood their offices starting from Monday, aftermath the suspension of the strike action embarked upon by staffers of the commission last week.
NIMC staffers had embarked on the strike last Thursday over what they described as exposure to risks of COVID-19, among other demands bordering on the welfare of staff members.
After the intervention by Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, the strike was called off and enrolment services are expected to resume.
A statement signed by the Head, Corporate Communications of the ministry, Kayode Adegoke after the suspension of the strike had said: “Enrolment services were temporarily disrupted when the local chapter of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) of NIMC embarked on an industrial action on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 immediately after their congress.
“However, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, who promptly intervened in the matter, has assured the workers of looking into their grievances and advised them to empathise with Nigerians, especially at this time that linkage of the NIN with the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards is ongoing for the security of lives and properties in the country,” the statement noted.
Before the suspension of the strike, many Nigerians had expressed frustration while trying to get enrolled for their NIN, just as some alleged that they were asked by staffers of NIMC for financial inducement before they could be registered.
In Akure, Ondo State, many residents who were at the office of the NIMC on Friday for registration were turned back.
An aggrieved resident who did not want to be identified, while expressing his anger said the situation was designed to bring hardship on the people of the country. “I don’t know the reasons behind this call for registration at this odd period of coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
An enrollee who simply gave her name as Iyabo said she has been visiting the Akure NIMC office for the past four weeks for registration without success, adding that a man who claimed to be a staff of NIMC asked her for money.
Thousands of Nigerians in Port Harcourt, Warri, Calabar, Yenagoa and other parts of the South-South region also recounted to Sunday Tribune the harrowing experience they went through to get enrolled at the various NIMC centres.
Some of the experiences include alleged acts of extortion by NIMC staff and spending long hours on the queue.
An enrollee, Miss Rukevwe, who was at the Ughelli centre, in the hope of being registered after the call-off of the strike said the NIMC centre there and the one at Oto-Udu did not open.
“I went there and the place was locked. I was told that it was because of the massive crowd which was not maintaining social distancing,” she lamented.
As of Saturday morning, the NIMC centre in Warri was also under lock. Some intending enrollees who had made fruitless efforts to register in the last two weeks spoke on their experiences.
An enrollee, Precious Nwachukwu said: “I was there around 6:00 a.m on Monday last week, but because of the crowd, they didn’t get to submit our credentials, let alone attending us. “Towards the evening of that Monday, I managed to put my name down and I was given a number (655). I left there around 8:00 pm. I decided to go there earlier on Tuesday at around 5:00 a.m. I met another crowd as usual and I was then wondering if the people slept in their houses. “Hoping that our list will be worked upon the next day, I decided to spend the night there. I slept there till the following morning.
“When it was getting to our list, I don’t know what happened; maybe some persons provoked the official that was calling out the names, the official just angrily tore the list. It was so annoying. I had to give up. I left there immediately. Whatever they want to do, they should do but I’m not sure I will be going back there. I’m fed up,” he lamented.
Another enrollee, Endurance Ejeje, decried the hypocritical compliance of enrollees and NIMC officials with the COVID-19 protocols and the regular loss of several man-hours just to get registered.
“I’ve been going there for the past one week and they haven’t attended to me. Besides, my business has suffered a lot while away to enroll.
“I won’t go there again. Will NIN put food on my table? I’m fed up. God knows I’ve tried. If they like, let them block my SIM. The crowd is too much. If you even pay for “express,” it will still take about a week to obtain it.
“The crowd does not observe social distancing or use of masks; they only use masks when the NIMC officials are about to attend to them,” she lamented.
In Akwa Ibom State, residents who are yet to be captured blamed NIMC officials, while lamenting alleged cases of extortion and impersonation, among others, which they said are discrediting the programme. “I was asked to pay N2,000 before I could be captured,” Mrs Affiong Bassey, a seafood dealer at Ibaka beach in Mbo Local Government Area lamented.
Confirming cases of alleged fraud and other sharp practices in the exercise, the state coordinator of NIMC, Mr Brown Iwok, in an interview in Uyo, said such cases have been reported in Mbo and other places in the state but denied the malpractices were perpetrated by officials of NIMC. “I received a call from the Mbo Local Government Area coordinator on the alleged extortion of money from applicants by touts and not by our state. I am aware that people are selling our forms to some unsuspecting applicants,” he said, adding that desperate applicants were in the habit of enticing NIN officials with cash for quick attention.
He explained that “the exercise is free,” adding that one could only pay between N500 and N1000 for correction of errors in names, phone number and others.
Iwok said touts only cashed in on the fact that the NIMC office is located in a private building to perpetrate frauds and other sharp practices disguising as officials of the agency.