Someone, alarmed by the unthinking directive of the Nigeria Communications Commission requesting Nigerians to immediately obtain the National Identification Number from the lethargic National Identity Management Commission and link it to the Subscriber Identification Module of their mobile telephones in just two weeks, sent in this text message:
“Dear Lekan… I will like to draw your attention (to the) mindless endangering of the lives of Nigerians by the NIN registration deadlines in the heat of the (COVID-19) pandemic (that is) ravaging the nation.
“The NIN centres are potential (COVID-19) superspreaders given the resulting desperation. Please, please, let the world know what the government is doing to the people by this totally unnecessary crisis at this time.”
On December 15, 2020, some unrealistic government agents suddenly announced that telephone subscribers must link their SIM cards to the NIN before January 1, 2021. When it became clear that this diktat was unrealistic, government conceded an extension till January 19, 2021 to those who already have the NIN and February 9 to those who do not.
Failure to comply with this nonsense, the government promised, would be met with disconnection of citizens’ SIM cards. This tyranny and ineptitude of thoughtless public servants ordering hapless citizens around know no bounds.
One would have thought they’d sort out the vaccines before giving directives for citizens to go mass up in NIN registration centres. Something else they should have considered is the possibility of registering online. Somebody just observed that Nigerians aren’t very good at queueing up.
After commending the government, “In light of the highly commendable response and efforts of governments, both at the federal and state levels, and specifically the current official ban on all forms of assemblies and overcrowding in response to the second wave of (COVID-19) pandemic,” Prof Olumide Olusanya of University of Lagos submits, “This whole NIN deadline brouhaha can only be explained as a rogue policy.”
He adds, “Raising the stakes so high in compelling NIN registration in the midst of a raging pandemic is needless endangering of the lives of Nigerians. This is ultimately witless. (As for)… COVID-19 spreading in a community, … in endangering some, you endanger all.”
“Àjàkale kále àrùn,” is the very graphic Yorùbá word for describing a pandemic. It means a disease that spreads very strongly across the land or the nation. The implication is that such disease spares no one in its wake.
Many of the telecommunications service providers have debunked claims by the NIMC’s Regional Coordinator, Funmi Opesanwo, that “A lot of (NIN) applicants (claim) that their SIM cards have been blocked… (and) that is why we are experiencing these large number of NIN applicants.”
Pay attention to three things: The second wave of COVID-19 is here and the rate of infection as reported by the Nigeria Council for Disease Control is getting out of control. There is a new strain that enters into the body cells faster, spreads in the body and to others faster, and does not spare youngsters as did the earlier strain.
Nigeria, and indeed the world, is not yet at the stage of herd immunity level where the virus is so low that it cannot constitute a threat to the community. What is prevailing now is the highly dangerous community transmission where anyone can be a vector of the virus.
If you agree that the deadly policy of the government is a breach of its own social distancing recommendation, you will appreciate the import of reports that vaccines have led to the death of some 23 recipients in Norway.
The contradiction in state policy is in the NCC still being categorical that NIN generated from Bank Verification Numbers cannot be linked to SIM cards, while the NIMC stick insists, “Kindly visit (a NIN) enrolment centre to complete your NIN registration.”
It’s funny that the NIMC headquarters in Abuja shut down its registration facilities to avoid spread of the pandemic. Sometimes, you wonder if these agencies are having sadistic satisfaction at the expense of the people.
Despite the emergency registration being a potential COVID-19 superspreader, NIMC insists that Nigerians must physically obtain the number at their enrolment centres.
Cynics think this is government’s morbid idea of population control; kill off the people to reduce the population that government will have to take care of.
If you don’t mind what may seem to be an outlandish comparison, cast your mind to the Bible story of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who introduced the policy of killing male Hebrew children, in order to check the exponential increase of the number of the Hebrew people who were slaves in Egypt.
It’s unbelievable that arrogant agents of the Nigerian state, when told that the policy decision that they did not think through puts Nigerian citizens in harm’s way, still insisted on continuing the exercise because of their ego trip that is too big to be put under any form of check.
You wonder if they are aware of Section 17(3)(c) of Nigeria’s Constitution which unequivocally provides that “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the health, and safety of all (Nigerians) are safeguarded and not endangered or abused.”
These seemingly forgetful lot need to be reminded that Section 13 of the same Constitution demands that “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government (including the NCC and NIMC), and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of (Chapter II of the Nigerian) Constitution.”
Maybe, these state agents will like to be reminded that the provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution include issues of public health, and that their failure to live up to this responsibility should result in curious wonderment.
Now, consider that part of the Oath of Office of Nigeria’s President, which says, “I, (John Doe), do solemnly swear/affirm… that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles contained in (Chapter II) in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Maybe the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who took this oath twice, should ask those officers, whose actions are causing him to breach the oath, to halt what is gradually appearing to be an undeclared biological warfare against Nigerians.
If the President fails to insist that this assault on the health of Nigerian citizens must be aborted, the All Progressives Congress that hopes to present a candidate for the 2023 presidential election should strongly recommend a reverse of this policy.
Witness how the COVID-19 pandemic became an issue in the recently concluded presidential election in the United States of America. Matters of public health belong in the realm of public safety and security. The Nigerian electorate must treat it as such, and the denizens of the Peoples Democratic Party should take the cue.
The APC must not let “Oniyangi” mar their electoral fortunes in 2023. Oniyangi is the vendor of sharp sand used in building construction. As you can guess, if he mixes his sand with the merchandise of the palm oil vendor, it will not be well.
The Federal Government should recognise that there is no emergency in the linking of the NIN to SIM cards and therefore stand down the exercise to such a time after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.