Fire brigade approach to things is like second nature to Nigerians. Perhaps this is why Nigerians are hardly caught slacking in any foreign environment they find themselves. They have been so used to emergencies that they function more efficiently in proper environments.
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Meanwhile, such an adaptive trait is hardly ideal for any administrative system in the world. Fire brigade approach to governance is mostly reactive in nature and less pragmatic.
The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) recent deadline set for all Nigerians to link their mobile phone numbers to their unique National Identity Number (NIN) is as haphazard as it gets. It seemed that the NIMC and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy just summarily decided to make life harder for the ordinary Nigerian.
Firstly, there were no adequate provisions in place for the NIMC registration centres to take the huge population of Nigerians who will be trooping over to get their NIN and link the same to their phone numbers. It would only be later that the news of a method by which those who have BVN can retrieve their NIN remotely from their network providers. Not long after, further information surfaced that smartphone application to do the linking began to circulate unofficially in the media. Again, no official announcement or properly informing Nigerians was done on this.
Secondly, the mobile app set up at the last minute to aid those who have the NIN with linking their phone numbers was also said to be muddling some of the information of users. A user complained that the picture displayed on her profile on the NIMC app is that of someone else. Some other users who physically showed up at the registration centres complained of NIMC staff extorting them of large sums of money in order to help them fast-track their registration.
To worsen the case, a report credited to the Communications Minister who also oversees NIMC as an agency, Dr Isa Pantami, claimed that Nigerians who have succeeded in retrieving their NIN will still have to visit a NIMC registration centre to physically link their data. Nothing can be more confusing than a clash of procedure from the coffers of government.
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Meanwhile, citizens can at least have one thing to be thankful for in this huge mess. One saving grace for the upwardly mobile population is that a large number of those who have their BVN handy are able to retrieve their NIN without having to queue endlessly at the overburdened NIMC registration centres. Notwithstanding, there are still up to 75% of the Nigerian populace who have no BVN and so have been subjected to physical registration at NIMC centres.
For a ministry that oversees the communications sector in the country, the competence of many of the professionals and administrators is doubtful if basic information of a seamless means of linking data cannot be communicated simply. It is even more damning if their competence in handling matters of Information Technology is nothing to write home about. There may just be a few things wrong with not figuring everything out before an initiative is advertised by government, but appearing to muddle everything up is unforgivable for professionals who are expected to know better.
The worst case is that the crowding at NIMC registration centres are allowed to go on risking their health while other sectors in the economy are being closed down due to strict COVID-19 restriction policies. Why should Nigerians take a section of the government seriously if another branch is allowed to flout the rules?
And now that a higher percentage of Nigerians did not meet the much advertised January 19 deadline set by NIMC, and their mobile lines haven’t been disconnected yet, it has cast a shadow of doubt over the initial urgency placed on the registration. Will Nigerians ever take any other NIMC and phone number linking deadline seriously? Thus, the agency and the communications ministry have shot themselves in the foot unprovoked.
The verdict on this sham process supports cutting off all haphazard policy tendencies and fire brigade approach to problem-solving from civil service bureaucracy and the entire system.
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