Friday, October 29, 2021

Travails of Iyom and obtaining of NIN for SIM - ITREALMS

ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!

In this piece, REMMY NWEKE brings to the fore the travails of local dwellers in Nigeria, especially in South East, who wish to have telecom access despite weird interpretations of guidelines on linking NIN to SIM.

Primer:

Iyom Achala Ugo is a local rice farmer from Awba-Ofemili, a town about 30 kilometres from Awka the capital of Anambra State. She was privileged to have been using the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications at least since 2010. Iyom or Out-Odu is the most revered and coveted society for women in the southeastern part of Nigeria. The Iyom title is a women-only.

So soon after the December 9, 2020 order received by the  Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy (MoCDE), Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), to suspend sales of new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards in the country, Iyom began to notice that she was unable to receive calls on her mobile line.

This led to her being taken to Awka, the Anambra State capital to find out what was the issue when her children returned home for Christmas break. First surprise was that her line has been tossed and in fact was reissued to another person in recent weeks following purported inactivity which was greatly opposed because there is no month she does not receive some airtime and calls from her children, at least every fortnight and efforts to retrieve the line proved abortive despite it being her only line, funded and made active by her children.

No new SIM until …

According to the customer service supervisor at one of the operators, Airtel precisely, she must get the National Identification Number (NIN) to be able to get a new SIM following the December 15 directive to Mobile Network Operators to link SIM with NIN.

The supervisor identified as Ms Uche (not real name) said they do not offer such a NIN service in Awka office except at the Local Government Secretariat nearby or you visit the state office of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) at Enugwu-Ukwu.

Iyom has other means of identification including the voters card which was used in 2019 elections, but these cannot suffice for NIN according to customer service staff.

In the company of her son who returned from Abuja and wanted to sort this out before leaving, both headed to the secretariat thereafter only to be told that workers were on industry strike and should listen to the radio and news to know when to return when work starts or check back in two weeks.

She preferred to check back in two weeks later due to lack of constant electricity in the town to listen tune radio or television set for news; she was accompanied by her grandson this time to Awka for NIN registration after which they planned to buy a SIM. On getting to the Secretariat they were informed the workers in-charge of NIN registration were on strike for unremitted allowances owe them over a period of time and should check the NIMC state headquarters at Enugwu-Ukwu, so they headed to Enugwu-Ukwu.

@NIMC head office:

At the state NIMC headquarters they were told that capturing has since stopped due to power or technical failure and should return two weeks later to know how far. She beheld long queue of residents who claimed were captured two weeks back but yet to get their papers, which is evidence of NIN registration.

So, again two weeks later Iyom was on the road to Awka with her grandson and were told strike has not ended. Yet two months later when the strike was over, was then the Easter preparation commenced.

As a farmer, immediately after Easter is the period to clear grass or bush for your next rice or farming season, hence Iyom has remained incommunicado ever since pending when she finished that initial farming phase. This took another three to four months coupled with local community activities that demand physical presence of an individual.

Just last September, she went to Awka again enroute to Enugwu-Ukwu for her NIN on the insistence of the son in Abuja who encouraged her to get it sorted by sending her all the supports considering the way NCC is going about the SIM and NIN linkage. Although the children have stop sending her any fiscal support directly and prefer to use a payout agent at nearby town, Ugbenu for her upkeeps.

This is despite suggestions by other siblings that anyone should simply buy SIM for mom and the question, the Abuja-based son has been asking is “what happens when she takes the SIM for financial transactions, especially linking it to her bank services’ arguing that its better to get the right thing done than cutting corners and being entangled in the process which could cost double when effort is repeated sooner than later.

NCC prediction comes through:

Like predicting the government especially NCC next moves, the Abuja-based son of Iyom stood his ground despite the argument that followed. And on October 19, the Commission warned telecoms consumers not to allow their NIN to be linked to another person’s SIM cards, no matter how close the person is to them. As said by the Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mr. Efosa Idehen, “On no account should a telecom consumer, however circumstanced, allow another person to register a SIM with another person’s NIN.”

Speaking at the third run of Telecom Consumer Town Hall on Radio (TCTHR) programme, broadcast live on Human Rights Radio, 101.1 FM in Abuja, Idehen said compliance with this advice will protect the true owner of the NIN from any liabilities or negative consequences arising from the use of other person's SIM. “If the person, whose SIM is linked to your line use his own SIM to commit crimes or any form of atrocities, it is easy to be traced to you and then, you will be dealt with because the SIM is linked to your NIN”, he insisted.

However after adhering to the nuisances of getting NIN customer copy on last Tuesday after the Sit-At-Home on Mondays, Iyom could still not get her new SIM as the MNO office she went to in Awka told her the paper must be used after one month and so she went back to the village despite all the bad road at Amansea, Ebenebe, Ugbene, Ugbenu, Awba-Ofemili road without her anticipated new SIM.

ITREALMS gathered that as at the last weekend, the Abuja-based son was still pleading with her to endure it once more and get ready to visit Awka yet again before end of November for new SIM, notwithstanding that the last information from her mobile operator sounded weird and discouraging to say the least, which should have costed the operator the customer if the son in Abuja was alerted before she embarked on her return journey from Awka to their town.

Summary:

Thanks to Iyom's Abuja-based son, she has since lost hope in the efficacy of telecommunications as a means of bettering her life at over 70 years and being forced to took the steps outlined above comes with a special grace and support of wherewithal, mostly for someone who would not like to cut corners.

Following due process is an arduous task in most public institutions in Nigeria and becomes double tragedy in places like outside Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt where MNOs often classified as having a given service nationwide whereas it only operational and accessible in these three cities.

NCC should as matter of fact deploy a means of checking the excesses of MNOs customer services beyond the three aforementioned cities.

On the other hand, MNOs, should as matter of fact stop misleading information on their service offering and let alone deliveries in the state capitals, moreso, in the eastern part of the country where services are now being disrupted due to sit-at-home pending its stoppage eventually.

Finally, the extension of telecommunications services to the likes of towns in the axis of Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbne-Ugbenu-Awba-Ofemili road deserves special attention through the use of Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).

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