“Good morning, sir. I am here to register for my National Identification Number. How do I go about it, please?” I asked a roadside business centre operator, who also doubled as a National Identification Number (NIN) registration agent, in the Ipaja area of Lagos.
The operator, a man in his mid-thirties, grinned and told me to sit on an empty chair near him.
Sitting beside the man was a teenage boy, who, I would later realise, was his assistant.
Following the deactivation of over 70 million SIM cards by the Federal Government of Nigeria in accordance with its SIM-NIN paring policy on Monday, I had decided to visit different NIN centres in Lagos on Tuesday to observe registration.
“Aunty, the registration is N1,000. For the validation, you’ll have to pay N3,000. So, your total charge is N4,000. You can’t do it for this price anywhere. They’ll definitely charge you a higher price elsewhere,” the man added.
I asked him what he meant by ‘validation’ and why he would collect money for it. He told me not to bother about that.
“Aunty, sheybi na SIM you wan link? Na that validation go make am work. If you no do validation, you no fit link your NIN with your sim. I go do am now now,” he said.
“Oga, I’m not saying it won’t work. I just want to know why I would have to pay N3,000 for validation when registration is just N1,000. And again, when will I get the slip after I register?”
When I asked this question, the man’s assistant moved closer to the operator and whispered to him in Yoruba. “I think this one is wise oh. We now have three customers. Don’t let her spoil our sales. Let her just pay the N1,000 and go.”
I first chuckled, then asked the If I should take my leave since he didn’t seem ready to attend to me.
“Madam, na because say you fine oh. Na why I no wan collect money for validation. Just pay the N1,000 make you fit collect your slip fast fast,” he responded.
“Alright. But when do I get the slip? My SIM is deactivated already and I need to make phone calls. Can I get the slip quickly?”
“You did not tell me this before nah. If you wan collect slip before Monday, na N5,000 you go pay. I go just capture you and collect your information.”
It was shocking that all through our entire chat, the man requested for neither my ID card nor BVN.
“So, I don’t need to bring a BVN or do biometrics? I didn’t know it was that easy,” I told him.
He said none was necessary for the registration.
AGEGE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT
When I visited Agege Local Government secretariat, a security man directed me to where the registration was being done under a big tree. Sitting under the tree were two council officials, a man and a woman, attending to a crowd, who were first required to obtain a N100 registration form before they could be attended to.
After taking in the scene, I instinctively walked up to the woman for enquiries.
“Good afternoon, ma. Please, I am here for NIN registration,” I said.
She looked at me, glanced at my cross bag and then replied, “Good afternoon. You’ll fill this form first. It’s N100.”
“After you fill it, bring it tomorrow morning with any valid identity card,” she added.
When I asked the lady if I could present my work ID because I had no valid means of identification, she looked at me in annoyance.
“Why won’t you have a valid ID card? Or is that why you want to do the NIN registration?” She asked me.
“Yes, ma. I need to have a valid ID card. My SIM card was deactivated too. I have not been able to reach out to people for some days now,” I replied soberly.
“Whenever you come here, just ask after the woman who sells nose masks. I’ll take you to someone who can help you fast-track the issuance of a national identity card for N8,000. But you will give me money for card,” the woman told me.
As I was about to leave the council premises, a woman approached the tree, shouting and lamenting that her NIN was yet to be activated.
The woman said she obtained her NIN at the council the previous week, but it was yet to be activated.
“That was why I did not go to the roadside centres. I trusted the local government office to give me what I wanted,” the woman said.
“When I heard that they wanted to deactivate our SIM cards, I entered my NIN on my phone but the message I got was that the numbers were invalid,” she added.
She further explained that she could no longer use the SIM for phone calls and that the NIMC ID card she was issued was now useless if the NIN on it would not serve its purpose.
According to her, she had given one Mrs. Adegbite, one of the council’s officials, N5,000 and expected her to give her a ‘perfect work’.
While responding to her, the officials at the centre advised her to pen down her complaints and come back the following day.
“Adegbite is not around now. She would be around tomorrow. Please, come tomorrow,” one of the officials said.
While this was ongoing, an official from the registration block was seen shutting the entrance gate.
“Don’t make this place overcrowded. You all would be attended to one after the other. You don’t need to rush,” she said to the mammoth crowd at the gate.
“Naso she dey always talk. She don collect money from the people wey Dey inside. Why she no go talk say make we dey go house? I don dey process this thing for over 3 weeks. Them no give me anything,” a woman said beside me, while reacting to the official’s gate-closing move.
I left the local government around 1:59 pm and proceeded to the Ijaiye Local Government Area secretariat.
GATE KEEPER, OFFICIAL DEMANDED MONEY AT IJAIYE LGA
Just as I was about to ask someone for directions to the NIN registration point at the Ijaiye LGA secretariat, the gatekeeper called me and asked what I wanted to do.
After telling him the purpose of my visit, a man standing next to the guard whispered to him in Yoruba language. “Se eleyi lowo sha? Gbowo gidi lowo e o (Does she have money? Collect a good sum from her).”
I then asked the guard, “Please, what do I need to bring when coming for the registration? I need it urgently.”
“Do you have an ID card? Either LASRA or Voter’s card? If you have any, bring it tomorrow morning by 8:30. Also, you will need to pay N3,000. Don’t go inside when you come. Make sure you see me first; I am always at the gate,” he said.
I asked him why I would have to pay N3,000. I also added that I was only told I would pay N100 for the registration form.
“Madam, don’t disturb me. If you know you’re not ready to do your NIN, don’t come here. At this moment, no one will do NIN registration for you for just N100. People are rushing it,” he snapped..
”I already told you that this one doesn’t have any money to pay. You’re the one disturbing yourself. When she’s ready to do it, I’ll personally collect N5,000 from her,” the other man said.
ALIMOSHO ROADSIDE CENTRES
Almost all the roadside centres I visited at the Alimosho Local Government secretariat had people complaining of fake registrations.
It was also very clear that most of the agents at the roadside centres were not capable of producing NIN slips independently.
At a centre, I saw about three people complaining to an agent about how they had been unable to get their biometrics captured for two weeks.
At another centre, a woman was seen screaming that she paid N2,000 to an agent but the said agent had not issued her NIN for two weeks.
“I gave you N2,000 for this registration because I needed it urgently. I knew it is free in so many other places. You assured me that I would collect it in a week. It is now two weeks! Is this how you people deceive Nigerians?” She asked.
It was gathered that the primary job of these centres is to suggest accredited centres to people.
However, with time, they started demanding money from people while acting as the actual agents that would issue NINs to them.
REGISTRATION NOW N5,000
In October 2019, Hadiza Dagbana, an NIMC official, said NIN registration should be free. But like Mrs. Adegbite in Agege LGA, other officials at accredited centres now use the mandatory NIN registration to make money.
With all this, it is evident that corruption is at the centre of NIN registration in Lagos. If it continues, the average Nigerian whose SIM card has been blocked may not be able to afford a registration.
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