My focus, for now, is, once again, on the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which is the body, charged with the responsibility of issuing National ID card/National Identification Number (NIN) to Nigerians but which has grossly failed to do so. But having failed, the same national ID card or its number is now being used as a weapon against Nigerians. The other day, it was the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) that, early in 2018, pegged the issuance of Nigerian passport to the possession of the National ID card; a move that was widely condemned as illegal and it was dropped.
Recently, there were reports that the Police in Borno State were demanding NIN at road block in Maiduguri. It is not clear why the Police embarked on such venture, and why it was mainly in Maiduguri. The latest and most annoying came from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which had made the possession of NIN as a requirement for candidates wishing to sit for this year’s (2020) Unified Tertiary matriculation Examination (UTME). The demand had put confusion in thousands of candidates, many of who may not have heard of NIN or where or how it is obtained.
JAMB had said, last September 2019, that it was working with the NIMC to ensure that candidates for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination register for the National Identity Number. The JAMB Registrar, Prof Is-haq Oloyede, who made the disclosure in Abuja, noted that the NIN would work against all forms of “registration infractions, which is the foundation of examination malpractices.”He said the introduction of the NIN to UTME was in line with the directive of the Federal Government that the NIMC should be the primary data collection centre. What has the Federal Government’s directive got to do with JAMB and the issue of examination malpractices?
If this is law, does it apply only to JAMB candidates? What about WAEC, NECO and other tertiary institution candidates? Are they exempted from the rule? The penchant of JAMB to introduce one stricture to make things difficult for candidates every year is unbecoming of what is supposed to be a national examination body. This year, it is NIN; nobody knows what condition JAMB will introduce against candidates next year. Despite all that, JAMB has not attained stability more than 30 years since it started.
Since JAMB made the announcement, thousands of prospective JAMB candidates have besieged NIMC offices across the federation to get the registration done. All over the offices, long queues formed as more candidates trooped in. The candidates were lamenting the stress they were going through at NIMC offices with few computers and inadequate manpower. The crowd-pulling as a result of JAMB directive is unnecessary and avoidable.
Although, JAMB has reportedly suspended the compulsory use of NIN for candidates sitting for the 2020 UTME, the Board should be told that asking candidates to possess NIN as a condition for sitting for the entrance, examination is totally misguided and uncalled for. Any policy, from whosoever, that frustrates the drive towards mass literacy in Nigeria should be deemed to be inimical to the country’s interest. Obviously, those using NIN as weapon know very well that millions of Nigerians don’t have the National ID card.
The suspension of the use of NIN by JAMB is self-indicting. JAMB knows that the requirement is not feasible but could only create chaos and confusion in its examination this year. JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, had disclosed that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) will have registration centres around computer-based test (CBT) centres across the country for candidates who do not have the NIN to avoid difficulties in registering and writing the examination.
The decision to suspend the process followed harsh criticisms of the policy about the timing and the difficulty in obtaining NIN. As a matter of fact, candidates should not be required to have NIN before sitting for any examination. In the case of JAMB, there are international candidates who sit for the examination to attend school in Nigeria; are those ones exempted. If yes, why put Nigerian candidates in undue hassle?
I can’t imagine that the authorities of JAMB don’t know the difficulty Nigerians face in obtaining the National ID card. Prof. Oloyede wants to water down the difficulty by believing that having NIMC registration centres around its examination centres would solve the problem for candidates. That is weird and convoluted thinking.
How could candidates who should be concerned with their examination have divided attention trying, at the same time, to register for NIN? It is unpatriotic for anyone to put any condition that would deny our youths education. If NIN is made a requirement, there is no doubt that thousands of candidates would miss the examination. In that case, who loses, it is Nigeria; the future is destroyed by unwitting highhandedness of our leaders.
In late 2017, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) also came up with a similar policy like JAMB. It announced that with effect from January 2018, anybody who does not have the National ID card will not be issued with the Nigerian passport. The misguided and arrogant policy failed to reckon that there are millions of Nigerians who have no need for an international passport, such that if international passport were to be the condition for getting the National ID card, then millions won’t get it.
While JAMB hinged its demand on curbing examination malpractices, the Immigration said its policy was to enhance the ease of doing business in the country. It is unimaginable that the National ID card could provide solution to all the failures in the system. The frivolous reasons being put forward by those using NIM as a weapon are laughable. And if NIN is the magic wand for solving all the problems in the system, why is it so difficult to get it?
The Federal Government launched a registration process for obtaining the national identity card in February 2003. Seventeen years since the project kicked off, not many Nigerians have been able to get the National ID card. There are people who have registered for about two or three times without success. One may succeed in registering but to get the ID card is a Herculean task. Why is it so?
I can’t understand why except that some forces may be manipulating the National ID project for selfish reasons. In this age of digital data computerization, it is proving very difficult to get the National ID card. These day, banks register and issue ATM cards in a matter of one hour. Bank customers carry out all kinds of transactions on-line in minutes, why is it difficult to issue National ID card to Nigerians?
As things stand, no ministry, department or agency of government should use possession of the National ID card/NIN as a condition for doing anything. The truth is that millions of Nigerians don’t have the instrument in towns and cities talk less of rural communities. It is high time the government re-engineered the NIMC for it to be effective to justify the huge resources being wasted on it.