Large crowds gathered at the offices of the National Identity Management Commission in Lagos on Monday in a bid to register and obtain the National Identity Number.
The development comes just days after the Nigerian Communication Commission ordered telecommunications companies to within two weeks suspend phone subscribers who have no NIN.
Currently, only about 41.5 million Nigerians out of an estimated 198 million active phone subscribers have NIN.
Most of the people, who gathered at the NIMC office in Alausa, were either not wearing face masks or not observing physical distancing, thereby flouting the protocol put in place by the government in a bid to tackle the spread of COVID-19 which has been on the increase in the last one week.
The Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who has also been infected with COVID-19, ordered the closure of places of worship, schools, clubs and other places which could attract large crowds.
Several concerned Nigerians had expressed concern over the sudden directive of the Federal Government and had asked that the deadline given for the registration be extended but the government has remained adamant.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project had described the order as an abuse of human rights and threatened to sue the Federal Government within seven days if it is not rescinded.
The Federal Government recently approved the licensing of 173 centres and 30 state government institutions to conduct enrolment of persons into the National Identity Database. However, it was learnt that most of these entities could not start the process immediately because they lacked the infrastructure and equipment to do so.
Telecoms giant, MTN, which is one of the firms given the licence to enrol persons into the NIMC database, announced on Saturday that it was importing 14, 000 devices for the NIN registration and they are expected to arrive in two weeks.
Meanwhile, several Nigerians have been criticising the Federal Government on social media over the gathering of large crowds in NIMC’s offices.
Some of them accused NIMC officials of demanding bribe from them.
@ayegbajeje_ tweeted, “Those in Oshodi local government would frustrate you. People go as early as 4 am for numbers. If you can’t get the number and want to register, you’ll pay a N5000 bribe. If you can wait, you’ll fill a form for N100, pay 300 for printing and lamination. The situation as of 8.45 am today.
“The form is just an A4 paper with ‘free’ clearly written on it. If you make photocopies elsewhere it won’t be collected from you. Presently there are over 400+ people there defying COVID-19 guideline at the peak of the second wave.”
Another youth said on social media that it was ironic that the state government shut down night clubs over the weekend but was permitting large gatherings at NIMC.
“Lagos State Government sent police to Cubana to arrest people having a good time amid all their wickedness on citizens, because of so-called COVID-19 yet they are inviting and dining with COVID-19 with this NIN,” @iamgerrardoxa tweeted.
The NIMC Spokesman, Kayode Adegoke, did not respond to calls on Monday.
@prinzgbemi, who shared photos of from the Alausa office of NIMC, said the irony was that the office was barely five minutes away from the governor’s office.