Thousands of applicants stranded
Commission: Enrolment’ll resume soon
Amidst struggles by millions of Nigerians to enrol for the National Identity Number (NIN), the staff of the Na-tional Identity Management Commission (NIMC) yesterday embarked on an indefinite strike.
This is coming barely a month to the February 9 deadline fixed by the Federal Government for all telecoms subscribers to link their SIM registration with NIN or be blocked. Applicants who had besieged the headquarters of the Commission in Wuse Zone 5, Abuja, as early as 5a.m. were thrown into confusion immediately the NIMC staff arrived at the office with the news of the unexpected industrial action.
One of the applicants, who simply identified herself as Josephine, said the news of the strike was very devastating to her, having been coming for the registration for five days consecutively.
Josephine noted that she had been given a number tally that made her come for the registration as early as 5a.m. and yet could not achieve her desire. Explaining the reasons for the strike, the Chairman of the NIMC chapter of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Lucky Asekokhai, said the staff of the Commission embarked on the strike over poor salary structure as well as general welfare for staff, especially those working at this period of COVID-19. Asekokhai decried the non-provision of personal protective equipment for their staff who have been on the frontline attending to thousands of applicants for the National Identity card.
He further alleged that some members of the Commission have contracted the deadly virus while attending to applicants due to the poor organisation of the enrolment process, which usually witness Nigerians in their large numbers besieging the office daily. Meanwhile, NIMC had, on Wednesday, January 6, announced that it had distributed COVID-19 protective materials donated by the World Bank to all enrolment centres in the 36 states and FCT.
“Some of the items include hand sanitizer, soap, washing hand basin, face mask and face shield, among others. Safety of staff and applicants is our topmost priority,” the Commission had stated via its Twitter handle. Speaking further, the union leader noted that the poor remuneration for workers of the Commission is not commensurate to the services they render as essential service providers.
According to him, “a communiqué issued at the end of the congress meeting of the ACCSN, NIMC branch, the strike had become imperative due to the exposure of staff to COVID-19 risks, lack of personal protective equipment, irregularities in the promotion and poor funding. “Staff members were in-fected with COVID-19 and adequate measures have not been taken to curtail the spread. The meeting resolved that the safety of staff should be prioritised. Furthermore, the office environment should be fumigated immediately. “The congress agreed that the NIMC staff salary structure approved by the Federal Government vide Presidential assent be implemented in the personnel appropriation of the 2021 budget effective January 2021.
“That the lopsided and irregular promotion done in 2017 and 2020 be reviewed, regularised and gazetted in accordance with public service rules.” Reacting to the industrial action by its staff, NIMC, in a terse notice posted on its social media page, described the strike as a ‘glitch’ that will soon be resolved, while promising that enrolment will resume ‘shortly’. “The NIMC wishes to assure members of the public that glitches experienced in the enrolment process are being resolved and normal enrolment would resume shortly. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and wish to assure you of our continued excellent service,” the notice read.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had earlier in December directed all telecom subscribers in the country to link their SIMs registration with NIN by December 31, 2020, or risk being blocked from the networks. Government was forced to extend the deadline to February 9 as many Nigerians condemned the ‘military- style’ directive.
While many subscribers without the NIN remain apprehensive as the deadline approaches and the enrolment process remains tedious, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said there may not be mass disconnection as being feared. According to the commission, with 43 million already issued NINs, about 172 million lines out of the 207 million recorded as of October 2020, may have been linked. However, with the crowd of Nigerians thronging NIMC’s office every day for NIN enrolment without success and the latest development of industrial action embarked upon by the commission’s staff, the