Lawless ID card and passport deadline

By Luke Onyekakeyah   |   08 August 2017   |   3:32 am  

PHOTO: today.ng


An indication that from January 2018 anybody who does not have the National ID card will not be issued with Nigerian passport is misguided and uncalled for. It smacks of arrogance and impunity on the part of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). The deadline is illegal. The NIMC wants to hide its gross inefficiency under a frivolous deadline.

I don’t understand why the Presidency should support what is a blatant illegality. One does not have to be a lawyer to know his rights. Is the National ID card now meant only for people who apply for passport? There are millions of Nigerians who have no need for the international passport and so would not go for the ID card. You can only use what applies to every Nigerian as bait.

The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mohammed Babandede, reportedly, made the disclosure after a meeting of database harmonisation in Abuja. He explained that the reason behind the new policy was for ease of doing business in the country. He said that getting adequate data for those doing business in country was the biggest challenge.

Mr. Babandede absolutely missed the point. It is ridiculous to put ease of doing business as the main reason for National identity. What about providing reliable statistical database for census? NIMC’s job is to issue National ID card as a basis for ascertaining how many Nigerians there are. This has little to do with doing business.

The number of Nigerians who are engaged in real time business is small compared to the whole population. Outside the state capitals and a few urban centres, there is practically no big business in the country side. Similarly, the number of foreigners doing business in Nigeria is small. How then does ease of doing take the upper hand in National ID? No ID card is required for doing business in Nigeria?

Whereas there is a law establishing both the National Identity Management Commission and Immigration, there is no law that says that obtaining passport is predicated on having the National ID card/number. It is therefore, absolutely wrong for anybody to wake up one morning and begin to issue lawless deadline just to hide their failure.

Such deadlines, from experience, promote corruption; officials of the agencies concerned will capitalise on the situation to fleece Nigerians. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo should stop this illegality for goodness sake. The NIMC and Immigration should be compelled to do their work well.

If the NIMC has been efficient, by now at least 50 per cent of Nigerians would have got their National ID card. But I doubt if 10 per cent of Nigerians have been able to obtain the ID card. Few Nigerians know where the NIMC offices are located. Fewer numbers know how to go about applying for the ID card.

I applied for the National ID card since 2003 at Apapa; 14 years later, I have not received it even after checking at the Apapa Local Government Council office several times to no avail. What I saw at Local Government office was heaps of unclaimed ID cards belonging to people. The cards were dumped there. Maybe, my card was dumped somewhere else and can’t be traced.

Nigerians across the federation can testify to the fact that the NIMC is one of the lousiest agencies in the country. The commission has not measured up to expectation. Few Nigerians know where the NIMC offices are located not to talk of obtaining the ID card.

The resort to on-line application process by the NIMC in a country where about 70 per cent of the population are illiterate is preposterous and pretentious. How many Nigerians have access to computers?

Instead of the NIMC creating offices in all the 774 local government councils in the country as well as educational institutions where citizens could easily apply for the ID card, the commission is wasting time embarking on unnecessary high-tech on-line computer application process. The NIMC should ask how many Nigerians have applied on-line for the ID card. How many of them live in the cities and rural areas?

While Internet communication is in vogue, the level of literacy in the country is still very low. NIMC should not adopt IT as if every Nigerian has a laptop computer. The issue of National ID is something that needs total overhauling if the purpose for which it was established would be realised.

The Immigration is also plagued by intractable problems. The worst is lack of passport booklets at the immigration offices. This has been the case since about the middle of last year (2016). The immigration has been plagued by this problem and there is no indication that it is easing out sooner. It now takes about four months to get international passport in Lagos.

How then do you put a deadline for two services that are hardly obtainable? Why should Nigerians be always subjected to undue suffering amid the hardship plaguing the country?

Whereas citizens of Nigerian have inalienable right to their country’s passport, the National ID card does not carry the same weight as passport. Though, the two serve to identify the holder, there is no doubt that the passport is a superior document.

While the passport gives the holder the right to travel abroad and return back to the country, the National ID card doesn’t give that right. It is, therefore, senseless to predicate the issuance of Nigerian passport on having National ID. That ridicules the passport as non important. NIMC should start giving National ID to newborns to alleviate the problem.

If the purpose of the draconian deadline is to compel Nigerians to get the National ID card, them it might not work because not every Nigerian needs a passport. Truth is that the NIMC has failed woefully in its duty. Nigerians want the National ID. I personally want it. The problem is where and how to get it.

If the NIMC is serious, rather than waste resources on computer technology which millions have no access to, the NIMC should decentralise its offices across the country to make their services accessible to Nigerians.

Thereafter, it should embark on public enlightenment to educate Nigerians on where and how to get the ID card. NIMC should make the application fast and process less cumbersome. The rigorous process of applying and waiting for the ID card discourages people from applying.



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