OP-ED Opinions 

A Note To The Federal Government Of Nigeria: Is The National Identity Card Truly Free? By Elias Ozikpu

What we are told is that application for the national identity card which is managed and controlled by the National Identity Management Commission is free. Whilst that is the official position of the federal government and the agency in charge, it is noteworthy that some staff of the Commission may have seen it as a perfect opportunity to extort unsuspecting Nigerians who are desirous to enrol for their national identity card.

A visit to NIMC’s Lagos office on Awolowo Road for instance, comes with a gruelling experience. A large crowd that is largely ignored for several hours under the sun, regardless of the fact that applicants arrive there as early as 05:00 AM to scramble for space. The only alternative to avoid such early arrival is to have money in one’s pocket, in which case you will be able to successfully enrol at any time within the official working hours. Staff of the agency have seemingly struck a deal with ‘agents’ who mediate between them and the waiting applicants. These ‘agents’ perch outside the office premises, collect money from applicants and submit their forms to the NIMC staff inside, before the applicants are called in for their biometrics.

This extortion became commonplace after NIMC authorities, for unknown reasons, disengaged banks and other enrolment centres that were empowered to register Nigerians at selected branches or locations across the country, thereby putting an end to a process which was easy and considerably seamless. Although these enrolment centres are still displayed on the NIMC’s website, the truth is that they no longer exist for registration.

The disengagement of banks and other enrolment centres was naturally a wrong decision, which did not only create endless queues or crowds at different NIMC offices, but also empowered unscrupulous staff members of the agency to subject Nigerians to extortion, unnecessary hardship and frustration.

I am therefore calling on the federal government to intervene in the ongoing extortion and hardship Nigerians are being subjected to at NIMC offices. It is obvious that Some NIMC staff who are responsible for the registration process are deliberately frustrating it in order to extort Nigerians. If NIMC cannot effectively carry out the registration exercise without imposing hardship on Nigerians, then the enrolment should immediately be returned to the banks and other centres. Doing so will not only curtail the ongoing extortion, it will equally help Nigerians from the harrowing experience they are confronted with at NIMC offices.

The national identity card enrolment form carries the following message:

“This form is not for sale. Report any such practice…”

I urge decision-makers at NIMC to take this article as part of the report sought on their enrolment form and act swiftly to salvage this unsavoury situation, if they are not already knowledgeable about the unethical practice.

Nigerians already suffer from all sorts of hardships, applying to obtain the Nigerian identity card should certainly not be one of them. Must the Nigerian life be synonymous with torture?

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