The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Federal Government to consider integrating existing databases of Nigerians rather than ask citizens to embark on another registration exercise for National Identity Number (NIN).
This is coming as the organisation urged President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, and Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC) Aliyu Abubakar, to stop the push for registration of Nigerians for NIN.
It also asked that the duo be directed to withdraw the threat to block SIM cards since the data being sought already exist in several platforms, including the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), driver’s license, international passport, and voters’ card.
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said that Buhari should also mandate Pantami and Abubakar to take concrete measures aimed at ensuring that the NIMC was able effectively discharge its statutory functions to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies into the National Identity Database, and to use the information to update SIM card registration.
Oluwadare while faulting the move through a letter dated 19 December, 2020, said that a democratic government based on the rule of law was one that is responsible to its citizenry and seeks to represent their interests and not subject them to gagging.
According to him, the push for NIN registration was a bad initiative, and cannot find support in existing laws, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations.
Oluwadare said that asking Nigerians to register, especially at a time the government was warning citizens about the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country was ironic.
He added that blocking Nigerians from using their SIM cards would amount to a blatant violation of their rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
“No government has the right to strip its own people of their basic rights under the guise of registration for national identity number. If the authorities continue down this path, the threats to citizens’ rights such as the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, will inevitably increase, and the NIMC will remain a paper tiger.
“Instead of forcing Nigerians to register, threatening telecom service providers with sanctions, and exposing Nigerians to the risks of COVID-19, your government ought to make sure that the NIMC discharges its statutory functions to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies, and make use of the information collected.
“The request for Nigerians to register for NIN is burdensome, unjustified and unnecessary. It would end up serving no other purpose than to threaten and violate the rights of Nigerians, and create a ‘chilling effect’ on citizens’ ability to participate in the fight against corruption in the country, and thereby seriously undermining the government’s oft-repeated commitment to transparency and accountability,” the letter read in part