Nigerians without NINs risk 14-yr jail term, says FG

By Our Correspondent

The Federal Government, yesterday, warned that Nigerians without the National Identification Numbers (NINs) risk jail terms of between seven and 14 years in addition to being deprived of social services.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, who spoke yesterday in Abuja, put the number of compliant subscribers at over 150 million, adding that the enrollment figure was 51 million as at March 31, 2021.

He clarified that Muhammadu Buhari had no plan to lift the ban on registration of new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) anytime soon, citing security concerns.

The minister explained that when security issues are being addressed, the economy takes back stage, pointing out that previous efforts compromised the system.

He maintained that while obtaining a SIM card may be optional, NIN was mandatory, quoting Section 27 of the NIMC Act of 2007.

Pantami stressed that it was a criminal offence to carry out business activities in Nigeria without first acquiring the special number.

But later yesterday, the minister on his verified twitter handles, said he was quoted out of context, saying: “Pantami has not mentioned 14 years imprisonment. But said NIMC has been 14 years in existence, since 2007. Since the session has been recorded by journalists, it is better to release the video for p(the) ublic to listen to it, please. Best wishes!”

He had said: “The NIMC Act Clause 27 states that you need the NIN for opening of bank accounts, insurance, land transactions, voter’s registration and driver’s licence.

“So, it is an offence to transact any business activity without first having your NIN.”

Disclosing that enrolment centres had doubled and capturing tools tripled, the minister submitted that the NIN would aid accurate determination of the nation’s population.

Pantami stated that the cost of data had halved since last year from N1,200 per gigabyte to less than N500 now.

He, however, blamed some state governors for the high cost of data through high right of way (RoW) charges in the course of installation of cables and related infrastructure by telecommunications firms.

“Some states charge as high as N60,000 per linear metre, whereas it should not ordinarily be more than N145,” the minister pointed out.

Pantami said he had engaged the state chief executives through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and sought Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s intervention, stating that the industry could offer something more cheaper if the anomalies are addressed.

On the performance of his ministry in 2020, the minister said but for the Information and Communications Techmology (ICT) sector, the most populous black nation would not have exited the recession wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated that within the period, the industry grew more than 0.9 per cent of the economy, insisting that the development was key to the overall feats achieved by Nigeria economically.

Asked if the NIN registration would be extended for the umpteenth time, the minister noted: “We had a meeting with all stakeholders today (yesterday).

We will make our suggestions to Mr. President and convey our position. If he is satisfied, we will go ahead and make it public.”

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