Atlanta, GA. USA. Wednesday, January 27, 2021: The U.S.-Nigeria Trade Council, USA, has noted with concerns, the time constraints of the directives to force compliance with the National Identity Number (NIN) registration deadline amid this raging COVID-19 disease. Given the grim prevailing healthcare challenges, we ask that this must not be an example of administrative “cognitive indifference” to the predicament of Nigerians in a global pandemic.
In this unprecedented and challenging global pandemic, an estimated 21 million Nigerians, who have not yet registered for their National Identification Number (NIN), currently face two untenable options of either to defy the increased existential health risk of COVID-19 while waiting at NIN registration centers or lose their telephone access due to blocked Subscriber Information Module (SIM) without NIN.
We are convinced that this laudable goal of creating a single national identity database for Nigerians, with the anticipated positive outcomes of enhanced administrative efficiency in budgeting, planning and policymaking, can be successfully accomplished without putting the lives of millions of Nigerians at unnecessary risk. Without the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent compliance deadline of February 9, 2021, will prove a formidable capacity challenge for the registration offices of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and their overseas proxy agencies to process the applications of over 20 million Nigerians in the next three months.
Nigerians in Diaspora face unique difficulties in complying with the current NIN registration deadline. With pandemic-related travel restrictions in their host countries and pandemic-related income reductions, the additional logistical and processing cost burden for the NIN registration can be prohibitively discouraging. The threat of blocked Nigerian phone SIM, which is linked to their bank accounts in Nigeria, presents undesirable difficulties with future financial transactions in Nigeria.
Nigerians in Diaspora incur significant processing fees paid to the proxy agencies for NIN registration, in addition to the prohibitive logistical costs associated with appearing in person at the enrollment centers for the biometric capture. These “hidden” costs for a “free” NIN registration generally include costs of a two-day roundtrip travel by air or land, overnight hotel accommodations, car rental, loss of vacation pay, and other travel-related costs.
In the United States of America, there are only 8 published enrollment centers to serve Diaspora Nigerians resident in the entire USA. (Source: https://nea.com.ng/diaspora/how_to_enroll.php) . These eight enrollment centers are in five cities, namely: Atlanta (1), Chicago (1), Houston (3), Minnesota (1), and New York (2). In the United Kingdom, there are 6 enrollment centers in two cities, namely: London (4) and Leicester (2).
Considering the locations of these enrollment centers for the required biometric capture, especially in the USA, it is expected that Nigerians resident in Miami (Florida) will travel over 1000 km or 621 miles to the nearest center in Atlanta, Georgia, which is a one-way road trip time of about 9 hours that is further complicated by pandemic-related travel constraints.
In conclusion, we implore the Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), and the Director-General of NIMC, Engr. Aliyu A. Aziz, to intentionally review and alleviate these daunting challenges faced by the NIN registrants who are resident in Nigeria and in Diaspora. We also advocate for options that minimize the indirect tangible and intangible cost burdens of registration and an increase in the capacity of NIMC to rapidly implement and manage such a massive NIN project through safe and socially-distanced strategies during this deadly pandemic.
About the US-Nigeria Trade Council, USA.
The US-Nigeria Trade Council, USA (www.usnigeria.org ) is dedicated to strengthening and enriching the vehicle of investment and trade between the United States of America and Nigeria. The Council provides a national forum on key economic, commercial and professional initiatives, as well as business opportunities of interest to American companies operating in or exploring business opportunities in Nigeria, as well as Nigerian companies planning trade ties and business expansion to the US Market.
With its extensive network and experience in Nigerian industry and commerce, the US – Nigeria Trade Council will assist to quickly identify the right suppliers and provide prompt answers to questions about Nigerian exports. The US-Nigeria Trade Council also assists US companies seeking to establish a presence, build a business model or partnerships in Nigeria.
Prof. Martin Okafor