The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria.
The commission is also to register persons covered by the act, assign a unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those who are citizens of Nigeria, as well as others legally residing in the country.
While the registration and issuance of NIN to Nigerians is supposed to be free, findings by our correspondents across some NIMC registration centres indicate that applicants are being extorted during the exercise.
The extortion and racketeering in the registration process seem to have exacerbated following the deadline for registration issued by government, coupled with the demand by various government agencies requiring NIN as a mandatory requirement to register for examinations such as JAMB-UTME and to obtain the National Drivers’ Licence, among others.
Apart from the menace of racketeering and extortion, the issue of inadequate registration materials and power failure are also making the exercise frustrating for intending registrants.
In Ogun, registration costs N3,500
“Enrollment is free. Card issuance is free. NIN is free.” This is the handwritten inscription pasted at various NIMC offices in Ogun State.
However, the reverse is the case at the registration centre on the premises of Abeokuta South West Local Council Development Area secretariat, Ibara, in Abeokuta, the state capital. Daily Trust Saturday investigation revealed that the registration cost between N1,000 and N3,500.
For about three hours on Friday morning, our correspondent observed a coordinated chain of corruption and racketeering at the centre.
Ranging from the LG officials, owners of business centres and NIMC officials, citizens were made to part with certain amounts of money for the registration. While some citizens gladly paid because they “have no time to waste” others were coerced in the coordinated chain of corruption.
The form which is meant to be free is purchased from the business centres within the premises on the referral of NIMC officials.
Our correspondent bought a copy of the form to verify the claim. “Please note: this form is not for sale. Report any such practice to 0700-Call-NIMC (0700-225-5646).” The information at the top of the form reads.
Our correspondent engaged an agent and an LG official identified as Alfa to assist him to register because he had none of the documents required for the registration.
Alfa told him, “You don’t need any document but you will pay N3,500. Someone has entered into the hall already. But if you have the documents, you will pay N2,500. You will obtain the form at N100, fill it and give me N2,500. I will direct you to the official (one Mr. Dapo) who will attend to you.”
The middleman further told our correspondent that the officials were not directly involved, but that they used proceeds of the extortion to maintain the office because “the government is not funding them appropriately.”
He said, “They don’t want to be identified with it directly. But when government does not give them money for papers, what do you expect?
“Meanwhile, they are not being paid hazard allowance for the job. You know COVID-19 is still very much around. The officials engage in risks to ensure the job is done. So, they feel they need some compensation. Ordinarily, the money they collect is fraudulent, but the government is not carrying out its responsibility as expected. Government doesn’t cater for their needs such as papers, face masks and sanitiser. That’s what led to the extortion.”
Speaking with Daily Trust Saturday, Godfrey Onuka, expressed concern over the extortion before walking away from a registration centre.
Onuka said, “I came here last year. This is not my first or second time. I was here three times last year. One thing I noticed is that I don’t know if government is paying them. I believe they are funding them. But I discovered there is laxity on the part of the staff. They don’t want to work.”
Another applicant, Abiodun Abdulgafar, told Daily Trust Saturday that he was asked to pay N1,000 before the enrollment by an NIMC official.
Walking away in annoyance, Abdulfagar said, “I won’t come back here. If they like they should block my SIM.”
An applicant, who pleaded anonymity, said, “It is a tough exercise. That’s why I have decided to pay. It is N2,500. We heard that they will soon begin blocking our SIM cards. Apart from that, there are some registrations that require NIN to complete. I just felt I should do it once and for all.”
Meanwhile, our correspondent who visited other centres in the state capital observed scores of residents lamenting that the process of registration was slow.
When Daily Trust Saturday contacted the Head of Local Government Coordination in the state, Wole Okunowo, on the alleged extortion at one of the centres, he noted that miscreants were swindling the registrants for selfish reasons and promised to investigate the matter.
Okunowo explained that, “I am just hearing that for the first time. But the issue of buying of forms, the form is a public document. But now, we don’t have the form. Maybe from the business centres around; we don’t have control over them.
“Now, on the enrollment, it is free. But I will investigate what you are saying. I know miscreants at times hijack the process, they tell applicants that they know people. I am not exonerating my staff. You know we are in a society where anything can happen. I am telling you categorically that the registration is free of charge. Nobody is telling anybody to pay.”
Racketeers, touts makes brisk business in Rivers
Racketeers and touts are feeding fat at the Port Harcourt/Aba Road office of NIMC in Port Harcourt.
Our correspondent who visited the office observed that touts and racketeers have taken the advantage of the difficulty experienced by prospective applicants for the national identity card to make brisk business.
At the gate of the office, our reporter was confronted by a middle-aged man who volunteered to assist him obtain the card within 24 hours. The young man whose name was given as Michael Jonathan said those who followed the normal office protocol to obtain the NIN spent as much as three weeks to get it while those that followed short cut got it in less than 24 hours.
Jonathan who seemed to have collaborators inside the NIMC office gave our reporter a NIN enrollment form at the cost of N50.
Jonathan told our correspondent that, “There are two things involved in obtaining the NIN. Those who want to get it fast pass through agents that have offices outside the NIN office. You have to pay as much as N4,500 to get the ID card processed and given to you within 24 hours or you spend a whole lot of three to four weeks if you intend to do it for yourself in the office.”
Inside the NIMC office, our correspondent saw more than 30 young men and women waiting to get their IDs processed. Some of them that spoke with our reporter said they had been coming to the office in the last two weeks.
A young man, Chukwuemeka Obilor, told our reporter that somebody asked him to pay N4,000 so as to obtain the NIN within 48 hours.
An undergraduate, Adaobi Oforika, said, “I was at Oyigbo for the ID card; I got there and waited for hours without succeeding. I was asked to bring N4,000 to enable me get the card within 24 hours, but I don’t have that kind of money. I am a student and cannot afford to pay that kind of money.”
Our reporter’s effort to speak with NIMC officials on the matter was unsuccessful, but a staff of the agency who spoke with our reporter denied allegations of extortion and racketeering, saying they had been transparent in the process.
Residents pay N1,020 in Oyo
Agents of the Federal Government registering Nigerians for the National Identity Number (NIN) at a commercial bank in Dugbe area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, charge N1,000, our correspondent observed.
Our correspondent who was at the bank on Thursday and Friday said there was heavy traffic of residents queuing for registration but that the officials of NIMC usually complained of shortage of materials and bad network.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that residents are being attended based on their relationship with the officials while many who cannot afford to bribe their way stayed on queue for days.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that as early as 08:00am many applicants flooded a business centre in the area to obtain the NIN enrollment form for N20 despite the warning on the form.
Our correspondent who spent close to two hours at the bank said helpless residents were being frustrated by the attitude of the NIMC officials.