The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria.
The commission is also to register persons covered by the act, assign a unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those who are citizens of Nigeria, as well as others legally residing in the country.
While the registration and issuance of NIN to Nigerians is supposed to be free, findings by our correspondents across some NIMC registration centres indicate that applicants are being extorted during the exercise.
The extortion and racketeering in the registration process seem to have exacerbated following the deadline for registration issued by government, coupled with the demand by various government agencies requiring NIN as a mandatory requirement to register for examinations such as JAMB-UTME and to obtain the National Drivers’ Licence, among others.
Apart from the menace of racketeering and extortion, the issue of inadequate registration materials and power failure are also making the exercise frustrating for intending registrants.
In Ogun, registration costs N3,500
“Enrollment is free. Card issuance is free. NIN is free.” This is the handwritten inscription pasted at various NIMC offices in Ogun State.
However, the reverse is the case at the registration centre on the premises of Abeokuta South West Local Council Development Area secretariat, Ibara, in Abeokuta, the state capital. Daily Trust investigation revealed that the registration cost between N1,000 and N3,500.
For about three hours on Friday morning, our correspondent observed a coordinated chain of corruption and racketeering at the centre.
Ranging from the LG officials, owners of business centres and NIMC officials, citizens were made to part with certain amounts of money for the registration. While some citizens gladly paid because they “have no time to waste” others were coerced in the coordinated chain of corruption.
The form which is meant to be free is purchased from the business centres within the premises on the referral of NIMC officials.
Our correspondent bought a copy of the form to verify the claim. “Please note: this form is not for sale. Report any such practice to 0700-Call-NIMC (0700-225-5646).” The information at the top of the form reads.
Our correspondent engaged an agent and an LG official identified as Alfa to assist him to register because he had none of the documents required for the registration.
Alfa told him, “You don’t need any document but you will pay N3,500. Someone has entered into the hall already. But if you have the documents, you will pay N2,500. You will obtain the form at N100, fill it and give me N2,500. I will direct you to the official (one Mr. Dapo) who will attend to you.”
The middleman further told our correspondent that the officials were not directly involved, but that they used proceeds of the extortion to maintain the office because “the government is not funding them appropriately.”
He said, “They don’t want to be identified with it directly. But when government does not give them money for papers, what do you expect?
“Meanwhile, they are not being paid hazard allowance for the job. You know COVID-19 is still very much around. The officials engage in risks to ensure the job is done. So, they feel they need some compensation. Ordinarily, the money they collect is fraudulent, but the government is not carrying out its responsibility as expected. Government doesn’t cater for their needs such as papers, face masks and sanitiser. That’s what led to the extortion.”
Speaking with Daily Trust, Godfrey Onuka, expressed concern over the extortion before walking away from a registration centre.
Onuka said, “I came here last year. This is not my first or second time. I was here three times last year. One thing I noticed is that I don’t know if government is paying them. I believe they are funding them. But I discovered there is laxity on the part of the staff. They don’t want to work.”
Another applicant, Abiodun Abdulgafar, told Daily Trust Saturday that he was asked to pay N1,000 before the enrollment by an NIMC official.
Walking away in annoyance, Abdulfagar said, “I won’t come back here. If they like they should block my SIM.”
An applicant, who pleaded anonymity, said, “It is a tough exercise. That’s why I have decided to pay. It is N2,500. We heard that they will soon begin blocking our SIM cards. Apart from that, there are some registrations that require NIN to complete. I just felt I should do it once and for all.”
Meanwhile, our correspondent who visited other centres in the state capital observed scores of residents lamenting that the process of registration was slow.
When Daily Trust contacted the Head of Local Government Coordination in the state, Wole Okunowo, on the alleged extortion at one of the centres, he noted that miscreants were swindling the registrants for selfish reasons and promised to investigate the matter.
Okunowo explained that, “I am just hearing that for the first time. But the issue of buying of forms, the form is a public document. But now, we don’t have the form. Maybe from the business centres around; we don’t have control over them.
“Now, on the enrollment, it is free. But I will investigate what you are saying. I know miscreants at times hijack the process, they tell applicants that they know people. I am not exonerating my staff. You know we are in a society where anything can happen. I am telling you categorically that the registration is free of charge. Nobody is telling anybody to pay.”
Racketeers, touts makes brisk business in Rivers
Racketeers and touts are feeding fat at the Port Harcourt/Aba Road office of NIMC in Port Harcourt.
Our correspondent who visited the office observed that touts and racketeers have taken the advantage of the difficulty experienced by prospective applicants for the national identity card to make brisk business.
At the gate of the office, our reporter was confronted by a middle-aged man who volunteered to assist him obtain the card within 24 hours. The young man whose name was given as Michael Jonathan said those who followed the normal office protocol to obtain the NIN spent as much as three weeks to get it while those that followed short cut got it in less than 24 hours.
Jonathan who seemed to have collaborators inside the NIMC office gave our reporter a NIN enrollment form at the cost of N50.
Jonathan told our correspondent that, “There are two things involved in obtaining the NIN. Those who want to get it fast pass through agents that have offices outside the NIN office. You have to pay as much as N4,500 to get the ID card processed and given to you within 24 hours or you spend a whole lot of three to four weeks if you intend to do it for yourself in the office.”
Inside the NIMC office, our correspondent saw more than 30 young men and women waiting to get their IDs processed. Some of them that spoke with our reporter said they had been coming to the office in the last two weeks.
A young man, Chukwuemeka Obilor, told our reporter that somebody asked him to pay N4,000 so as to obtain the NIN within 48 hours.
An undergraduate, Adaobi Oforika, said, “I was at Oyigbo for the ID card; I got there and waited for hours without succeeding. I was asked to bring N4,000 to enable me get the card within 24 hours, but I don’t have that kind of money. I am a student and cannot afford to pay that kind of money.”
Our reporter’s effort to speak with NIMC officials on the matter was unsuccessful, but a staff of the agency who spoke with our reporter denied allegations of extortion and racketeering, saying they had been transparent in the process.
Residents pay N1,020 in Oyo
Agents of the Federal Government registering Nigerians for the National Identity Number (NIN) at a commercial bank in Dugbe area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, charge N1,000, our correspondent observed.
Our correspondent who was at the bank on Thursday and Friday said there was heavy traffic of residents queuing for registration but that the officials of NIMC usually complained of shortage of materials and bad network.
Daily Trust reports that residents are being attended based on their relationship with the officials while many who cannot afford to bribe their way stayed on queue for days.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that as early as 08:00am many applicants flooded a business centre in the area to obtain the NIN enrollment form for N20 despite the warning on the form.
Our correspondent who spent close to two hours at the bank said helpless residents were being frustrated by the attitude of the NIMC officials.
One of the residents who spoke with our correspondent said he had a problem with his bank account and had no option than to take the national identity card to solve the problem on his account.
Kehinde Odu, another resident, lamented that the stress involved in getting the card was much, saying, “Government can make the registration process easier than this. They can create more centres and improve on their network. Their officials know that Nigerians are not having a choice and that is why they are maltreating us.”
In Kaduna, residents pay to fuel generator
In Kaduna, Daily Trust observed a crowd at a centre in Rigasa community of Igabi Local Government Area of the state scrambling to get the number.
It was learnt that just like other centres within the state metropolis, the centre has only one computer used to capture details of people which makes the process very slow.
The centre also faces other challenges like lack of data, registration materials and a faulty generator. Our correspondent learnt that most times, the people are asked to contribute to fuel the generator.
One of the NIMC staff at Rigasa said most centres were not well funded by the national office in Abuja.
He said, “It is forbidden to sell forms to the people, but we need to finance the centres and the only way to do that is to print the forms and sell to the people at affordable prices. We use the money to print forms, buy data and paper to use in printing their slips. The money collected from the people is used to service them.”
A resident who identified himself as Udu said it took him five days before he could register and that they contributed money to fuel the generator at the centre located at Layin Hakimi.
Apathy reigns in Akwa Ibom
In Akwa Ibom, officials of NIMC said there was racketeering in the agency.
One of them who preferred to remain unnamed as he was not authorised to speak to newsmen, revealed that if there was any incident of racketeering, it would be self-inflicted especially by persons who were eager to get the NIN, adding that such occasions were rare.
Observations during the registration process at the NIMC state office inside the Federal Secretariat along Abak Road in Uyo showed a low turn-out of people for the exercise.
Our correspondent observed that the few persons who turned out were orderly as they waited for their turns to be captured after submitting their details to the officials.
Speaking on the registration process, the State Coordinator of NIMC, Mr. Fred Iwok, said the apathy of citizens towards the exercise was responsible for the poor registration since the project started in 2012, adding that not more than 900,000 citizens had registered out of the four million population in the state.
Power outage mars exercise in Taraba
In Taraba State, findings revealed that power outage is the main problem causing delay in enrolling people for the national identity card.
A source in the Jalingo office of NIMC said whenever there was power outage, work was usually stalled and that most of the equipment in the office were obsolete while staff were paid poor salary.
The State Coordinator of NIMC, Mr. Moses Mamudi, who said issuance of the National ID card was free, however admitted that N500 was charged for issuing printout; N500 for change of name and N15,000 is charged for change of date of birth.
Investigation in the state revealed that those enrolled for the card waited for about five years before they could get their cards.
Favouritism, shunting persist at Kano centre
A visit to the NIMC centre along Taludu, Kofar Kabuga, in Kano State showed that enrolment was going on smoothly with majority of the enrollees were doing so for the purpose of obtaining international passport for Hajj.
An enrollee told our correspondent that favouritism and shunting of queue persisted due to the “who you know” syndrome.
It was observed that all over the premises, stickers were boldly placed announcing that the enrollment is free.
Easy task in Lagos
Registering to get at NIMC offices across Lagos has now become easy as people walk into the premises with the relevant documents, get captured and thereafter take their NIN except if there is no electricity to print it or when there is no internet.
At the NIMC office beside the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Ikotun the environment was calm and there was nobody to attend to people. It was locked.
However, this was not the situation few months ago in Lagos. When an announcement was made that the NIN was a prerequisite for JAMB, the number of people who wanted to obtain the number shot up and officials used the opportunity to extort people.
Recounting her ordeal before she could obtain her NIN, Itunu Ajayi, a Lagos resident, said she went to over five places before she could get her NIN.
A JAMBite said she was told she could obtain NIN at the Alausa centre after parting with between 3,000 and N5,000, “But I didn’t have that kind of money, so I preferred doing it without paying no matter the stress.”
Another resident at the Ikotun Igando LG said he visited the place several times before he could finally get it done some months back.
Long queues in Jos
Our reporter who monitored the registration process at the NIMC office in Jos, the Plateau State capital, observed that there were long queues at the gate and people waited for several hours before they were called inside.
There were no reports of racketeering as all those who spoke with our correspondent said they were not asked money other than the necessary documents.
The only complaint, however, was the delay and favouritism by some members of staff.
Mrs. Abdulwasiu Bsshirat Bisola said she came at 06:00am but was not attended to, and that some persons who came behind her were allowed in because they knew some members of staff.
Effort to speak with the state coordinator was not successful as he was not on seat and members of staff refused to avail his number to our correspondent.
Edo residents storm NIMC office
In Edo State, our reporter who visited the NIMC office at the Oredo Secretariat observed hordes of applicants waiting to get captured.
One of the applicants told our reporter that all prospective applicants had to be at the office very early in the morning to get numbers before being captured.
He said, “But if you need it urgently and you can’t wait, you have to pay between N1,500 and N2,000 to get it. If you are not in a haste and you are given a number, you will definitely be captured.”
Another applicant who had gotten his own temporary slip, told Daily Trust Saturday that all one needed to do was “to be smart if you don’t want to spend much time and days. I got mine through the backdoor by paying N1,500. Today, they have stopped giving numbers until tomorrow. If you want it today, I can help you but you must pay something or you have to come tomorrow.”
He said nobody forced him to pay but added that, “I could spend many days to get it if I don’t go through “short cut”.
Meanwhile, a staff of NIMC told our reporter to come the following day and get a number to be captured, saying, “We have the procedure to follow; you have to get a number and wait for your turn to get captured.”
NIMC spokesman mum in Abuja
In Abuja, NIMC’s Head of Corporate Communication, Kayode Adegoke, refused to respond to enquiries from Daily Trust.
Adegoke was contacted to react to allegations of extortion of registrants by NIMC staff but he declined comment. He failed to respond questions sent to him more than a week ago via WhatsApp and SMS apps.
When our reporter called him on phone, he promised to get back to him, but as at the time of writing this story, he did not respond.
Mixed grill in Maiduguri
In Maiduguri, crowds gather at the NIMC office on Kano Road daily either for the NIN registration or verification mostly to fulfill NCC’s requirement of phone validation.
Idris Sale from Damboa Road said it took him two days to verify his NIN, adding that officials were meticulous during the exercise.
Sale said, “I arrived at the office early in the morning at about and joined a queue because I could not wait for a long time the first day I came. It was not rowdy when I did my verification because I came early, though the officials started work at 08:00am.”
On the contrary, three ladies who were at the office for registration said they sought the service of a tout who facilitated their entry into the registration arena “after paying him N3,000 each,” alleging that the touts were working with some officials.
An official of NIMC said there were 10 registration centres in Maiduguri, including the one at the head office, which could register 12 people at a time.
He further said although there were inadequate working materials and personnel, the office was well-organised and that officers were warned against extortion or connivance with touts to defraud the public, adding that registration “is free and we are working with security personnel to arrest corrupt officers and their accomplices. Our major problem is inadequate funding.”