Fear And Frustration In Nigeria As Millions At Risk Of Phone Suspension

“If you don’t have a phone, you can’t make money,” Rafael Aji sat down in a rusty metal chair and clasped his hands on his lap.

The government of Africa’s most populous country has ordered carriers to block SIM cards for those who fail to register their national identification number (NIN) by February 9.

Nationwide, many people like Ajih are trying to follow the directive, but despite Covid’s pandemic, they are often dissatisfied with waiting days for a large number of people to do the paperwork. I feel.

The idea behind NIN is to create a single identity database for 200 million people in Nigeria, a jumble of documents from driver’s licenses to voter cards that citizens use to prove their identity. Is to replace.

According to the government, each person’s unique number will help unlock the national ID card and solve policy-making and budget planning issues.

The argument continues that this change will also combat the rampant crimes of Nigeria. Eliminate unregistered cards used by scammers and jihadists by linking your ID number to your SIM.

Nigerians are lining up to get a valuable national identification number-without it, your cell phone could be disconnected

38-year-old Ajih sells products through WhatsApp and Amazon and works as an Uber driver in the capital Abuja. This allows you to financially support your two younger brothers, your sister, and your extended family.

He sends money to his relatives on his mobile phone. This may not be possible anymore if you can’t get the NIN and send the number to your mobile operator.

He has already tried to register twice, but was surprised by the large number of people who didn’t wear face masks and weren’t too far away from society.

“Covid is real, yet they are telling people to do this, and there is no control,” said Ajih, who decided not to join the crowd.

“If I get sick, I don’t make money … so my health is paramount.”

Applicants sleep while waiting to obtain a national ID number in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos

Applicants sleep while waiting to obtain a national ID number in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos

The Nigerian Ministry of Health did not answer the AFP question about traffic congestion reported at the registration center. A spokesman for the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which runs the process, declined to comment.

In addition to the crowd, many people complain that the process of registering is too slow and too complicated.

Men and women of all ages were sitting on the sidewalk waiting on a recent Monday morning outside the Grand Ibro Hotel, which rents space for admission.

As the man hesitated out of the front door and called his handwritten name on a sloppy piece of paper, the man in the crowd began to scream.

“They say they can only do 50 people a day while we stand here for thousands! It’s unfair!” UgochukwuOfor said.

“We find it difficult, very very difficult. This is the 7th time I’ve come to this.”

Applicants say they may have to wait a few days to get NIN

Applicants say they may have to wait a few days to get NIN

“I’ve been from Sleha, Niger (about 70 kilometers / 44 miles away). I arrived in Abuja around 5:15 am, but I’m not sure if that will work until now. It’s fair! “”

“Yes! He’s right!” People shouted around him.

“This is very frustrating. I left the kids home, I couldn’t take them to school today,” said Otitoju Funmi.

In a statement, the Nigerian Communications Commission, the country’s independent regulator of telecommunications, said, “Linking NIN to SIM is for the common interests of all Nigerians,” “widespread interests.” Said to bring.

At one registration center, Kal, where AFP was able to visit, about 50 people were waiting outside in the heat, but it was unclear if they would arrive that day.

The dilapidated room where the registration was made was about 12 square meters (130 square feet). Inside, only two employees were getting people’s details, and noisy fans were typing into two old computers swirling overhead.

In Nigeria, personal data and biometrics are collected individually by 12 federal agencies as well as state agencies.

The government has been using NIN to centralize all information for over a decade.

I found a way to facilitate registration by linking the process to people’s mobile phones and modifying the deadline.

“I think the deadline is to get people to take the process seriously,” said Ike Namani, chairman of the Nigerian Telecommunications Carriers Association, a non-profit organization that represents carriers.

But that’s a huge job.

The number of active phone subscriptions in Nigeria is 208 million.

According to data released by the NCC, about two weeks before the February 9 deadline, 16.8 million to 64.6 million had not yet been linked to NIN due to difficulties encountered at the registration center.

Nnamani claims that line suspension is a “last resort.”

Ajih tries to register again, but chooses not to be defeated no matter what happens.

“If pushes come in and you can’t get NIN, you can survive.”

He has no other choice.

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