Draconian policies and obnoxious decisions this government has churned out since inception has probably forced some discerning minds to go back to their primary school lesson notes to take a second look at what their elementary understanding of government is; whether it is a mechanism to advance the corporate security and welfare of a people or an assemblage of power-mongering individuals whose aim is to clinch political authority through questionable means without a pinch of knowledge on how to deploy same in effective service to humanity. The policy actions and inactions of President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015 has largely targeted at further endangering the already precarious economic environment, leading to massive job loss, closure of companies, mass exodus of investors and liquidation of businesses, which adverse effect is visibly seen in the number of poor people he has created, the rate of insecurity bedeviling us and of course the skyrocketing number of people living on the edge of life, below hand-to-mouth.
While this discussion will be reserved for another day, it is pertinent to state that the recent order by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami to over 172 million telecommunication subscribers according to statista to link their mobile lines with their National Identification Number (NIN) or risk disconnection, with an initial deadline of December 30, 2020 is nothing but an attack on civility and indeed one of the unpopular steps this government has carved a niche for. To imagine this is coming amidst a lethal second wave of global COVID-19 pandemic raises questions on how much the government is concerned about the life of the people it governs.
Irrespective of how supercilious this idea may look on the surface, it passes to say that it is a repetition of a process that has already been undertaken by millions of Nigerians whose biometrics have been deposited at the NCC database during the point of registration of SIM card, the same way our people were some years ago subjected to tortuous and agonising process of obtaining new vehicle number plate, that had nothing new aside the nation’s coat of arms at its background. We are all witnesses to how the exercise became a cash cow to few privileged individuals and how all the mouthing on the imaginary security chips it contained ended up an embarrassing farce
Agreeably, no sacrifice is too enormous to make for the security of our people. However, this must not be at the direct expense of life and livelihood of the already suffering masses. The despotic order for all mobile subscribers to enroll in NIN and link same with their mobile numbers within a very short deadline would ordinarily not appear a herculean task to our citizens to accomplish because they are really not new in ingesting the authoritarian tendencies of those in authority. Again, what is the state of health of the public institutions to embark on this gigantic project, particularly the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to register over 100 million subscribers yet to obtain their NIN within a space of one month?
Was it not embarrassing that while millions of Nigerians thronged the NIMC offices across the country, the Commission’s staff embarked on strike over reasons bordering on their welfare and safety from COVID-19? What magic wand would the agency perform to enroll 100 million subscribers in one month when it has not registered 20 million in one year? At what capacity do the equipment at their disposal perform? Could we not adopt the BVN modality that had adequate timeline for citizens to enroll? Would one be right to say that even the electoral umpire, the INEC is regaling at its slumber, waiting till two weeks to 2023 election before it could deploy its registration kits to document potential voters, forcing them to leave their bedrooms at 4am to write names?
At the risk of sounding immodest, the quality of policies those in authority dish out speaks volume on the level of importance they attach to our lives. These are people who have virtually everything at their disposal and can afford the best quality healthcare delivery at topnotch hospitals across the world. At the slightest stomach upset, they fly overseas totally at our common patrimony. How many of those who toil and labour day and night at NIMC offices to obtain NIN can afford the category of treatment these policymakers have at a snap of finger? At a time when our fragile health facility has come under the heavyweight of escalating global health hazard, could it be the right time to mischievously expose citizens to hazardous threats in the guise of NIN registration? This passes as a premeditated attack of citizens’ right to life.
Undoubtedly, frustrated by their inability to secure the people, the government appears to be on a shopping spree for anything to cling to, including straw as justification for mass murder of our people across the country. With previous similar exercises, including SIM registration, driving license enrollment, international passport and voters’ ID card, how far have we gone in curtailing the activities of murderous Fulani herdmen who go about unleashing terror on our people, leaving a trail of blood and tears? Has Southern Kaduna experienced respite? How far has banditry in North West been combated? How far have we used these data to give the ‘masters of the forest’ along Abuja/Kaduna expressway who abduct our people for fun a bloody nose?
President Muhammadu Buhari though a self-acclaimed democrat has continued to raise the specter of military hangover, treating the voices of the people he leads with utmost levity, desecrating all institutions that accord legitimacy to what we call democracy, including the legislature and judiciary. At worse, he places himself as the messiah who has come to salvage everything wrong with the Nigerian system. Whether he would give a listening ear to the multiple calls to create enough time for this exercise to take place in view of the deadly second wave of COVID-19 lies in the belly of uncertainty. Registration points should be taken to the wards and villages, the same way ballot boxes find their way there during electioneering periods and backed up with adequate manpower, including ad-hoc staff.
The environment has been very hostile and unfriendly to most Nigerians of all strata; the children, the young, middle-aged and the very aged. Our people are barely managing to survive, not certain where the next meal will come from. The economic sphere is biting. The entrepreneurship vicinity is aggressive. The academic corner is unhealthy. Further attempts must not be made aggravate fury in the minds of an unhappy people. It is enough they have stopped people from purchasing new mobile lines, infringing on their right to own property. Going ahead to deactivate their mobile lines over non-enrollment in this suicidal NIN exercise will amount to crossing the line of depravity and ruthlessness.
Enemanna is an Abuja based journalist