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NIMC will meet Anambra’s needs – Okeke

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… Says Anambra should key into federal government’s policies, projects
… Promises not to let Anambra NIMC’s office’s cut off from national grid hinder state’s registration

National Light has found the cause to hitches witnessed in registration of the National Identification Number (NIN) in Anambra State. The reason is that there is neither light nor water in the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Office in the state.
However, the new state coordinator of the commission, Iwuchukwu Philip Okeke, who spoke to ROSE ORANYE, CHINWENDU UZOATU, CHIGOZIE ANUEYIAGU and BLESSING NNABUIFE in reaction to the issues pledged to tackle the situation successfully. Excerpts:

CAN you give us your background sir?

  My name is Iwuchukwu Philip Okeke. I am the new Anambra State Coordinator, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). I resumed work precisely on 28th of January, 2021.Before I became the state coordinator, I worked as internal communication officer under Corporate for Communication Unit of National Identity Management Commission, under the Director General’s office. So, I am from headquarters, Abuja. I am an indigene of Anambra State, from Anam, Anambra West Local Government.

  From what you said, you resumed duty in NIMC when the rush for registration was highest, how has it been so far?

  Before my posting, NIMC has been existing but like you said, I was made coordinator when everyone is trying to get registered and have a National Identification Number ( NIN). Like you pointed out, I came in the heat of it all.

I have been trying to meet up with the demand of the people of the state who want to be enrolled and be registered and be integrated into the data base. It has been challenging in the sense that having assumed office newly, I came to face the public where almost everyone wants to get NIN at the same time. So, I have to make sure that they get registered.

  So, I started by reaching out to the local governments but in each local government, we have a supervisor. Apart from having a supervisor, we also have cluster heads who supervise a cluster of   at least two-three local governments under them.

So, I reached out to them.  We called them for a meeting where I tried to make them report on their roles and responsibilities.   So, after sharing the reports they gave me, I tried to re-strategise; then going forward – what and what I need to be in place.

 So, I can say that since then, I have been trying to make sure that those who want to be enrolled are giving attention; that they get enrolled and also issued their NIN. Whereby the NIN is not dropping almost immediately, we try to give specific periods when the NIN will drop for them to come and collect their NIN.

  Like how many official agents do you have? Is that what you call them?

  The word agents came from NIMC World Bank arrangement. The need for all applicants to get registered gave rise to another way to make the work rate easier since it is impossible to attend to everyone at the same time. So, the World Bank introduced what we call “eco system approach”.

This is a system whereby we want to decentralise enrollment centres so that every nook and cranny you go to, you can find one enrollment center. This is to discourage the overcrowding of people in a particular place. Now, NIMC can be contacted by government agencies, private organisations, corporations, individuals, etc to apply for license to enroll people. And once they are issued license, they will set up enrollment centers and start enrolling.

Under this arrangement, we have three categories. We have category A, which is for the national level; which means these agents can set up enrollment centers anywhere in the country once they are given the license.

The second category is category B and they can only set up in the region or zones.  For example, you can only set up in the South East .Those in category C can enroll only at the state level. So, these are the people we call agents. These agents fall into what we call the front end partners.

We have both front end partners and back end partners. Back end is NIMC itself concentrating on the management of the national data base and that is what originally, NIMC was mandated to do; to care, maintain, operate and build the national data base.

The front end partners, also known as the agents are taking care of enrolments, issuing of cards, issuing of NIN and everything that happen outside. Whatever they do outside, they transfer to NIMC that takes care of the back end for NIMC for them to put in the National Identity data base and maintain it, operate it.  That is the way it is structured.

  So how many agents do you have in the state?

  So far, we have about 205 registered, licensed agents. However, most of them have not fully set up, and they are coming up gradually.  We allow them to explain what they do, we allow them to publicise themselves. We allow them to carry out awareness and publicity but on our own at this very point in time, we are even advising most of the applicants who come to our enrollment centre. Once we are aware that a particular enrollment centre by these agents has come up after sanctifying them, we tell the applicants to go to a place like this and get registered instead of crowding the NIMC enrollment centre.

What motivates people to be NIMC agents, what is their gain or NIMC’s gain?

  Like I said, it is to decentralise NIN enrollment and make sure that those who are qualified to be registered include citizens of Nigeria, foreigners who are legally residing in Nigeria. We now have to call in agents to license them to start enrolling in other for us to be able to get them to get the citizens of the country into the National Identity data base.

Anyone that is licensed as an agent, be it individual, corporate entity or an organisation; once you start registering, the World Bank itself take the payments. The World Bank pays one dollar per NIN pulled by its agents. If you registered and successfully pulled NIN , for that single NIN you pulled, the World Bank pays you one dollar .

That is how it is. We are not actually giving out our work but we are trying to make our work simple, easy for every Nigerian and foreigner who are legally residing in Nigeria to get enrolled into the National Identity data base

  If these agents get paid by World Bank, what is the justification for the fees they collect for registration?

  There is no justification at all. The terms and condition on which they were licensed make it specifically clear that they should not collect any dime. Their payment is made by World Bank.

  The mass enrollment to NIN is expected to end in April and some people are already asking for extension, do you think it is possible?

  Contrary to that, it is not ending in April. The enrollment has been massive.    The only thing is that they are talking of deadline for people to link their sim cards to NIN. That is why we have the deadline that has been issued before by the federal government but having considered demands for Nigerians, they decided to extend it.

It has been extended the first one, second one, and  I think this is the third one which was extended by eight weeks which is coming to an end by April 6. Given the situation of the country, the federal government decided that there is need for every sim card procured or bought for use to be linked to NIN, having realised that NIN is very unique.

It is one for one person, since one cannot register twice  and be issued with two NINs which is eleven digits number. People may have one sim, two sims, three sims, four sims, five sims as the case may be and once you link any number of the sims you have to that NIN, it helps to tie them together so that wherever verification is being carried  on,  all the lines you have will show. 

So once the line you have shows your identification, confirmation and authentication is confirmed.  That is what federal government is doing.  The registration like I said is ongoing but this period, let everybody link their sim to their NIN. Like the instruction goes, it is for those who have registered and have NIN within this period. Maybe at the end of the day, those who have not registered will continue to register and link it as well.

 If you have registered but has not linked your line, they’re giving you deadline to do that before this very particular period. Those who have not registered will equally register and link. I am not in a position to say whether the federal government is going to extend it or not.

   What do you have to say concerning how  the number of people seeking to get registered drop immediately they extend the duration of NIN registration?

  Nigerians have this approach, until you tell them if you don’t do this within this period of time, nobody will care because we are so busy that we have other things to focus our attention to but once you say, “if you don’t do this till this period of time, I will shut my door and you will not do it again,” then you will see massive number of Nigerians rushing to come and do it at that time. That was what we noticed and experienced when the first and second deadline of the NIN registration was approaching.

Before you know it, the extension news came and immediately people heard about it that it has been extended, in our usual manner and way of doing things, everybody returned to their homes waiting till the last day. March is now ending, as at today, it is the remaining five days. All the enrollment centers will be crowded again because people will come out to rush and do it.

  How prepared is your office for the upcoming surge as the deadline is closer?

  We are very much prepared because we have had first and second experiences. Not only that we are prepared but the coming up of the agents is a good move. Applicants will not only be coming to NIMC enrollment centres but they will also go to available ones or the one that is closest to them, thereby reducing the number of people that will be coming to NIMC office.

NIMC is trying to encourage and announce to applicants; once you know that an enrollment center from our agent has been set up and they’re enrolling people, we advise them, please go there. The essence is to actually inform people that these people are also our agents; whatever they do there is genuine so that people will not think “I don’t know whether this is also from NIMC or is a scam”.

 This information from us telling them to go and enroll there is to further authenticate and confirm that these people are also our partners.

How do you handle cases of one registering and still having problem from corporate organisations who claim the number is not valid even when NIMC has confirmed it to be valid?

  Any government service rendering agency in Nigeria has been mandated by the acts that established NIMC for the mandatory use of NIN to carry out transaction or to give service to anybody including all the agencies of the government. Any agency or private organisation that fails to recognise NIN or fail to collect NIN from anybody that has registered before giving the person a service is equally falling short of the law establishing NIMC because it’s completely entered in the NIMC Act.

If somebody refuses, that it is the duty of whoever that is seeking for such service to complain to NIMC that at a particular place, this person refused to collect NIN to render service to me because there are certain penalties for that in the  NIN Acts for anybody that does that. Nobody should reject NIN for any reason.

The only thing is that if you think that the NIN an applicant or individual seeking for such service is giving you is not correct,  the only thing is for you to confirm that with NIMC. That is why NIMC has gone further to create a portal for verification so this portal is what agencies, including government, private organisations, corporate entities request from NIMC and NIMC  gives you this portal so that anybody that is giving you NIN for any transaction which you requested, you will now check the portal.

For this portal , through NIMC, your link with NIMC back end will confirm that this NIN  is authentic and that the person presenting it is the actual person that it is issued to; with the information of that person pumping up so you confirm and authenticate and give service to the person.

  Is there anyway NIMC as an organisation can source agents that will go into the hinterlands for this registration in other to help those in areas?

When you’re starting something newly, you might not immediately touch everywhere. Those who are setting up at this time might think that setting up in urban areas will favour them more; maybe they find it very easy where they have access to everything, including light, water and others but what they want is to get people enrolled.

By the time you set up in a particular place in Awka South Local Government and you stay there for about a week, two weeks and people are coming and after one month, you are no longer seeing anybody, you will be forced because what you need is to register somebody through NIN and be paid. If you decide to stay there waiting from morning till night, I think I don’t know whether I am the one to complain or you are the one to complain.

 I think with time, this people will begin to know that it is better to go to that place where you see applicants waiting for you and you get yourself busy registering and getting paid than for you to remain in the city thinking that everything is there, meanwhile you are not doing the job which you set out to do.

  What do you have to tell those who are always waiting till the dying minute?

  I am telling them not to continue to wait till the dying minutes for them to come. It  is better they come out now and go to the nearest development center and get registered because by the time they wait till the dying minutes, the probability is that they might not be lucky to get enrolled at the particular time they want to be enrolled, thereby spending longer time waiting because when you get there, despite the fact that many people come by 4:30am and get your name written in the list and then waiting till 8 o’clock when NIMC or any other agent’s office is officially open and you will remain there. Probably, you find out that some people must have written their names before you came and  you will start waiting; thereby losing manpower from the time you came before it gets to your turn.

  When i resumed in NIMC, I found out that the place is a little bit crowded so I introduced ticketing or appointments whereby you write your number, sign and  it will take a particular number a day to ensure that whoever comes that very day will be enrolled and we will now tell the rest of the people that is remaining to come the next day according to the number given to you.

Once you come, you’re sure of getting enrolled; not for the person to come anytime he or she wants. Once we wait for you from 8 o’ clock to 10 o’ clock and you did not come, we start attending to fresh people.

  What is that thing that you have in mind that will bring change in the system here?

  I think the change I want to bring to Anambra State is to bring to their attention, knowledge and awareness that first of all, you don’t need to wait when you are asked to do a particular thing. Once it is the policy of the federal government, you make sure that you get it at the appropriate time.

Secondly, NIMC registration is free. The information we got in Abuja when I was there is that most people in Anambra State used to come and they will be in a hurry to get enrolled because they don’t want to leave their businesses and go to a particular place to enroll and spend the rest of their day waiting. That resulted to some of them offering something so that they can be attended to so as to leave that enrolment centre.

When such pressure begins to mount on the enrolmentt officers, you find out that some of them will start compromising because the pressure is too much but when you know you are coming to enroll, you will follow the due process and they will enroll you freely without anybody asking you for money because that is the guideline and standard.

  I call on the people of Anambra State to key in the federal government’s policies, projects and whatever government says. This is what we will do to achieve something. For me, I think coming to Anambra State is a home coming and I want to meet up with the demand of all the people who are aspiring to get registered. Through our relationship with our partner agencies, we will make the development centers functional and ready for applicants in Anambra State who want to get enrolled and then with time, everybody will be happy that things have actually changed; no longer as it used to be.

   What are the challenges you are facing?

  One of the challenges that i am facing is from from my resumption in office on the  January 28, 2020. I realised that the NIMC Head Office in Anambra State has not been connected to the national grid. What they have been using there to work is generator which is supposed to be a standby generator but that is what they’re using to work full time. The challenges of buying fuel everyday to make sure that the systems in the enrollment center are working is what I found too challenging. 

  “ I also resumed to realise that the water system is not working. The only summour that we have there has been removed from where it’s supposed to be. That also has made the office a little bit dirty because you cannot blame the cleaner who is supposed to use water and clean the office to do that with her spit.

  “Light is the only thing our office need to work with because our office is an ICT technology organisation. What we do there is to power our systems to do enrollment; to register the people. So, whatever we do there uses systems to work; so, where there is no light, I wonder what we can do there. So, the first challenge I face there is having found that the office is not connected to the national grid since it was built in 2012.

  “ I’m trying to reach the governor, Dr. Willie Obiano, to see if we can graciously be given  a transformer and then, install it and  step down the light and connect the office to the national grid so that all the systems we have will be working and possibly, connect the water we have so that the office will be neat so that  when applicants come, they will actually appreciate that this is a corporate office where NIMC will register them  comfortably under a conducive atmosphere”.

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