Young Nigerians have refused to get their NIN and who can blame them?

Young Nigerians' reluctance to get their NIN is a silent and non-violent form of protest

Last year, young Nigerians (home and abroad) came together for the #EndSARS protest against police brutality and the impunity of Nigerian government officials. Although the movement took a huge blow when peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate were murdered by Nigerian military officers, and our President all but threatened us with more violence if we continued the protests, our resolve to speak up against unlawful governance remains unshaken. We have two more years until we can exercise our right to kick out the bad leadership at the 2023 elections, but while we wait, a large majority of young Nigerians have resorted to civil disobedience to protest against the government.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) released a statement on Tuesday the 15th of December 2020, ordering mobile network subscribers to provide their National Identification Number (NIN) in order to update SIM registration records before December 30th. They also threatened that all SIMs without NIN will be blocked and any network operators who do not comply could lose their licenses. However, the threats had very little effect, as people were too busy celebrating the festive season to be bothered. As a result, the 2-week deadline was extended till the 19th of January, but from the passive reactions of Twitter users, it’s quite clear that young Nigerians have no intention of ever getting their SIM registration updated with the NIN, regardless of the consequence.

A large majority of young Nigerians being unmoved by the threat of getting their SIMs disconnected would have seemed unthinkable a few months ago, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to reduce our social interactions to just phones conversations. But the last few months have also shown us just how little our interests matter to the government. Rather than implement the law that can lead to the betterment of citizens, they’re attempting to make slaves out of us and put our health at risk by making us join long queues at the limited NIN registration centres, in the middle of a pandemic. Those who choose the option of generating a code remotely also stand the risk of being scammed by fake apps which the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has warned can harvest people’s NINs and Bank Verification Numbers.

It’s not that we don’t see how having a trusted means of identification can improve our lives, for one, identification gives us access to a number of services, by making international businesses more confident about potential customers for their products. However, the previous attempts of the government to provide a trusted identification system with Bank Verification Number (BVN), Drivers’ Licence, Voter’s Card and International Passport make the NIN registration feel like duplicated efforts. The BVN is issued by the banks, drivers’ license by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), voter’s card is issued by INEC, and the international passport is issued by the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS); and while these are all regarded as functional identities, they aren’t harmonised or interoperable.

The NIN is the government’s latest attempt at capturing the personal information and biometrics of Nigerians to serve as the ultimate means of identification for Nigerians at home or abroad. But young Nigerians are being reluctant to get it as a silent and non-violent form of protest. We already sacrificed hours (sometimes weeks), and in some cases safety, of our lives to get our BVN, drivers’ license, and international passport so why go through the hassle of getting the NIN when we already own other means of personal identification? If the network providers go through with the threats to block our SIM cards, we can guarantee that they will suffer huge financial loss and the commission will also lose in tax returns.

Those who wish to retrieve their national identity number via their mobile phone can do so with a unique USSD code, *346#, which attracts a N20 charge when dialled. Though the NIMC claims they’re trying to improve SIM registration transparency, one has to wonder if it’s just a quick money-making scheme for the organisation. As it stands, Nigerians are coping with the situation by doing what we do better than most; diffusing the tension with online humour. People have responded to the threats of getting blocked by posting several memes teasing the NIMC to do their worst while we wait to see if they’ll actually block our SIMs. Because, let’s face it, getting our SIMs blocked will be a useful excuse to avoid certain responsibilities and cut off the toxic people in our lives.

Featured Image Credits: Web/indiatoday
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