Nigerians allege extortion at biometric ID registration centers as SIM integration deadline nears
There has been an increase lately in the number of Nigerians storming National Identification Number (NIN) registration centers in cities across the country to enroll their biometrics as the deadline for citizens to integrate the NINs to their SIM cards fast approaches, according to local media.
A recent report by The Guardian revealed that not only are the numbers swelling at those centers, enrollment officers are taking advantage of the situation to extort money from enrollees to the national digital ID system.
The Guardian said its investigation in some cities such as the capital Abuja, the commercial capital Lagos, the Southeastern city of Enugu, the Northwestern city of Kaduna, and others, shows that many Nigerians offer bribes in cash and in kind, while some even go as far as running errands for enrollment staff, all in a bid to easily scale through the NIN registration and biometrics collection process.
Some of the enrollees said they had coughed out between N5,000 (roughly US$13) and N10,000 ($26) to enrollment workers. The publication also heard testimonies of some citizens who said they were asked to pay money to enrollment workers before they could be issued the ID numbers.
Others said they were also forced to buy application forms at enrollment centers, forms that are supposed to be free. For some, the ordeal has been about standing in queues for days to get the number, sometimes in vain.
Many citizens said they were now showing up at enrollment centers, especially at mobile telephone companies, because the deadline is fast running out.
The federal government in February set an April 6 deadline for this process, but it remains unclear if there will be another extension as many telephone users are said to still be attempting to sign up for the NIN.
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) says it has collected and submitted around 60 million NINs to NIMC for verification. Nigeria reported registrations had reached 46 million NINs in late-January, though it is unclear how many of the submissions from ALTON members were included in that figure.
Both Airtel and MTN report that just under half of their subscriber bases have registered NINs.
The report also quoted an enrollment agent as admitting that they indeed collect money from citizens to register them, and that part of the money is paid to some authorities of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) – the government body overseeing the biometric identity registration process.
NIMC officials said they are not taking claims of extortion by their subordinates lightly, and Director General and CEO Aliyu Aziz stated that some staff have been suspended and others terminated for extortion.
The NIMC has insisted in the past that NIN issuance is free of charge.