Paradigm Initiative says it has sued the Federal Government over threats to cut service to phone lines not linked with National Identity Number (NIN) nationwide by December 30.
In a statement made available to Technology Times this evening, the NGO claimed that it has “asked the court to restrain the Nigerian government and telecommunications service provider from carrying out a recent order requiring that all SIM cards not linked to the National Identity Numbers be disconnected by the telecoms service provider by December 30, 2021.”
Dr Isa Pantami, Communication and Digital Economy Minister, this week ordered operators to ensure that subscribers that have not linked their NIN with SIM Registration data within the two-week deadline be cut off, or risk losing their operating licence.
The Minister also asked the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to enforce the order saying that any erring telecoms company that flouts the order must be sanctioned.
Adeboye Adegoke, Senior Program Manager at the NGO says in the statement that the “proposed blocking of SIM cards not linked with the National Identity Number is unlawful and unconstitutional.”
According to him, “many young people and others, using their mobile phones for expression or to do business online will be affected by the poorly thought-out policy. No reasonable Nigerian will support such a policy that is geared to make life unbearable for Nigerian citizens.
The NGO “decries the Nigerian government order requiring all telecommunication service providers to ask their subscribers to link their National Identification Numbers (NIN) to the SIM cards within two weeks.”
PIN says “it is seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the government and the service providers from carrying out the draconian order as it believes it is a violation of fundamental rights to freedom of expression of Nigerian Citizens as guaranteed by Section 39 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution (As amended).”
Adegoke cites a June 2020 statement attributed to the Director-General of the NIMC, Aliyu Aziz that only 38% of Nigerians have any form of identification.
According to him: “over 100 million Nigerians have no identity (ID). These include the poorest and the most vulnerable groups, such as the marginalised – women and girls, the less-educated people, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, people with disabilities and people living in rural and remote areas.”
Adegoke says that “the said policy has created panic in the polity since it was announced. Nigeria at the moment is experiencing a 2nd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic according to the daily numbers from the Nigeria Centre for Defence Control (NCDC) in the past one week.”
“This is a time when we need to discourage public gatherings, crowding, and the likes, but it appears that the government is not sensitive enough to see those nuances and has asked that 100 million Nigerians should go and register for the National Identification Number within 2 weeks, so we are left with no choice but to seek the intervention of the court.
Valery Nijaba, Communications Officer at Paradigm Initiative, adds that “requiring over 100 million Nigerian citizens to register for NIN in two weeks is not only unrealistic but a fire brigade approach to governance that will not bring any value to the people.
“Whatever the government is trying to achieve by the strange directive is ignoble. When the same government tried to compel students writing UTME examinations to register for the NIN as a pre-requisite to sitting for the examinations last year, many students couldn’t register, with documented cases of government officials and law enforcement officials weaponising the desperation of the students to register for NIN to extort them and their parents. The government was forced to walk back on the policy at that instance. These are the type of effects the fire-brigade approach to policymaking leads to.”