NIN and SIM card: SERAP threatens court action

Isa Pantami

Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy

Isa Pantami: ordered NCC to block SIM cards without NIN

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given the Buhari administration seven days to withdraw the threat to block SIM cards of Nigerians, not linked with National Identity Number (NIN).

The group said it will take legal steps after the seven days to upend the order.

In a statement Sunday, SERAP urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “instruct the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, and Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC) Mr Aliyu Abubakar to stop the push for registration of Nigerians for National Identity Number (NIN).

It also urged Buhari to instruct the officials to withdraw the threat to block SIM cards, as the data being sought already exist in several platforms, including the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), driver’s licence, international passport, and voters’ card.”

The organization also urged President Buhari “to instruct Mr Pantami and Mr Abubakar to take concrete measures to promptly ensure that the NIMC is able to faithfully and effectively discharge its statutory functions to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies into the National Identity Database, and to use the information to update SIM card registration.”

The Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) had threatened that SIM cards not linked to NIN by 30 December, 2020 would be blocked.

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It said telecom service providers that failed to block phone numbers without NIN would have their operating licences withdrawn.

But SERAP in a letter dated 19 December, 2020 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “No government has the right to strip its own people of their basic rights under the guise of registration for national identity number.

“If the authorities continue down this path, the threats to citizens’ rights such as the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, will inevitably increase, and the NIMC will remain a paper tiger.”

SERAP said: “Instead of forcing Nigerians to register, threatening telecom service providers with sanctions, and exposing Nigerians to the risks of COVID-19, your government ought to make sure that the NIMC discharges its statutory functions to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies, and make use of the information collected.”

“The request for Nigerians to register for NIN is burdensome, unjustified and unnecessary. It would end up serving no other purpose than to threaten and violate the rights of Nigerians, and create a ‘chilling effect’ on citizens’ ability to participate in the fight against corruption in the country, and thereby seriously undermining the government’s oft-repeated commitment to transparency and accountability.”