Nigerian court orders extension of biometric ID registration deadlines
The deadline for Nigerians to procure and integrate the biometrics-based National Identification Number (NIN) with their SIM cards as directed by the Federal Government should be extended by another two months, a Federal High Court in the city of Lagos has ruled, according to many reports by Nigerian media. The current deadline in place is April 6.
This court ruling comes at a time when the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has said admission into state universities through the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Direct Entry (DE) registration system will henceforth be done upon presentation of the NIN by candidates.
Nigerian daily Premium Times reports that the decision by the Lagos court to call for an extension of the deadline was orchestrated by a lawsuit filed by human rights lawyer, Monday Ubani.
According to the report, the lawyer had argued in the lawsuit that the current deadline of April 6 was not enough to allow all eligible Nigerians to enroll their biometrics and receive NINs, and then register them with their SIM cards.
The move by Nigeria’s Federal Government for citizens to procure the NIN and integrate them with their SIM cards was announced in mid-December 2020. A two-week period was prescribed for the exercise, but after hue and cry from many Nigerians who deemed the window insufficient, the Federal Government extended it to February, and then further pushed it to April 6.
Ubani’s suit that received the favourable ruling from Judge Maureen Onyetenu was filed against the Federal Government, the Attorney General of the Federation (who is also the country’s Justice Minister), the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
Ubani had petitioned the court to order for an extension because the current deadline, which is due to expire Tuesday next week, will “…infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed right of people to freedom of expression, right to own moveable property and right to life,” as SIMs not associated with the national digital ID will have to be blocked by network operators.
There have been calls and even lawsuits against the Nigerian government in the past to either rethink how it is going about the NIN procurement process or suspend the exercise entirely.
No official reaction to the Lagos High Court ruling from any of the concerned parties were observed at the time of this report, and it also remains to be seen whether the Federal Government will heed the order and call for another extension.
NIN now obligatory for varsity entrance exams
JAMB — the body that oversees entrance exams into public universities in Nigeria – says candidates seeking to take part in the 2021 session of the UTME and the DE must present their national digital identity number at registration points.
Nigeria’s The Guardian quoted the JAMB spokesman Dr. Fabian Benjamin as saying that all candidates must present the NINs at all UTME and DE registration centers across the country.
The official, per The Guardian, also gave details about certain important dates for the examinations, which he said, will take place between Saturday June 5 and Saturday June 19, 2021.
Dr. Benjamin said registration for the exams will start on Thursday April 8 and end on Saturday May 15, and that registration for UTME and DE will run simultaneously in 700 centers across the country and will not be subject to any extension.
Biometrics have previously been used to authenticate the identity of students writing JAMB exams.
There have been talks lately about making the NIN a prerequisite for some other services such as the obtaining of a driver’s license; acquisition of travel documents such as passports; opening of a personal bank account; participation in the national health insurance scheme; payment of taxes; transactions related to the contributory pension scheme; having access to welfare and other services from government; transactions with social security implications and all land matters subject to the Land Use Act.
Recently, the State of Kaduna announced that the NIN will from May 5 be mandatory for every resident of the State seeking public services.
Improved NIN slip, App to speed up ID registration
An improved NIN slip and a mobile app, which had been in the works in the last couple of months, have now been unveiled by the Federal Government. This move, the government says, is to ease the process of procuring the NIN and linking it up with the SIM card, according to Vanguard.
Speaking on Monday at the launch of the app known as NIMC MobileID, the Director General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz, explained the importance of the tools, saying they will serve as a secure platform for Nigerians and legal residents to verify and authenticate their identities with their smartphones.
Aziz further explained that the app offers a built-in harmonization process that allows for its use across other government services including the National Communications Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Federal Road Safety Commission and National Health Insurance Scheme, to mention a few.
The improved NIN slip, for its part, is a pocket-size and user-friendly tool which can be accessed through a self-service portal and can be printed out in color by those who already have the NIN.