The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) server responsible for the backend integration of the National Identity Numbers (NINs) has caused more challenges, leaving many mobile network subscribers stranded and unable to access network services.
As reported in February, the NIMC server suffered downtime and was resolved, but SIM cards already linked were unlinked. As subscribers tried to re-link their SIM cards, the FG issued a directive to telecoms providers on April 5 to bar lines yet to be linked to their NINs.
The glitch affected some subscribers who claimed to have completed the linking and verification process and received confirmation messages from their network operators long before the government ordered the ban on unlinked SIM cards.
What the NIMC server error means
Nigerian citizens and businesses who rely on mobile communication for daily activities may have to find alternative means to communicate pending when the issue is resolved, knowing that many businesses will lose money within that period.
In a related development, the FG issued a statement concerning the non-issuance of national passports to travellers, stating that the breakdown of the NIMC server and the inability to recognise linked NIN to passports has resulted in the delay of passport issuance to those looking to travel abroad.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Abdulrauf Aregbesola, claimed in a statement that the failure of the NIMC server prevents the certification of passport applicants’ biodata, resulting in more inconsistencies.
You must integrate your NIN with your Passport, without which we cannot issue a passport. So, the delays, therefore, are not caused by us at all.Ogbeni Abdulrauf Aregbesola – Minister of Interior
He added that “these little things conspire against speedy processing of passports. I took time to explain this because most Nigerians do not care about these minute details, they just heap the blame on the Nigeria Immigration Service.”
He, however, gave an assurance that passport applications would be facilitated online thereby allowing applicants to track their applications online, stating that the Ministry and its sister agencies are not where they ought to be yet.
Subscribers react to blocked SIM cards
It was reported in 2021 that about 15.8 million subscribers lost access to telecommunications services in the country, as a result of government policies, especially the ban on new SIM cards activation and replacement of subscribers’ damaged/missing SIM.
After the recent ban on unlinked SIM cards, about 119 million lines risked being deactivated. Available statistics from NCC in February showed that there are 303,636,267 connected GSM mobile lines in the country, out of which 197,768,482 were active. More than 70 million have been barred from making outgoing calls.
Subscribers, under the aegis of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, have said they are set to drag the Federal Government to court in May in a bid to temporarily suspend the government’s barring of subscribers’ outgoing calls.
In an interview with Punch, the President of the association, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, disclosed that the association will be joined in a suit already filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project against the Federal Government on the NIN-SIM policy implementation.
He said, “We have said that if the Federal Government does not lift the ban, we would go to court. But SERAP said it had filed a document in the court. So, we are giving the government until the end of the month.
“NATCOM is saying that by end of the month, we will go to court. We are going to court to ensure the government unbans the lines and extends the deadline. SERAP has made the first move already, we would be joined in the suit.
“After the expiration of our deadline for the government to reconsider its decision, we would formally go to court, along with SERAP. By the first week in May, we are joining SERAP in the court.”
Ogunbanjo pointed out that even subscribers who had linked their NIN with their SIMs prior to the directive were also blocked.
The big problem
The NIN-SIM linkage – including resuming duties as queue participants at NIMC offices – is known to be more strenuous than carrying bags of cement across the road. This problem of the NIN-SIM linkage has been compounded by the glitch, not forgetting that people have to wait for light-years to have their SIMs verified.
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