NIN verification: Frustration, anger as NIMC portal goes down

• Glitch stalls vital services by banks, Immigration, telcos, other agencies

• Our portal not down –NIMC


By Enyeribe Ejiogu and Adanna Nnamani                                       

Concern, anger and frustration are growing among Nigerians, who for the past one week or more have been unable to have their National Identification Number (NIN) confirmed due to the inability of the relevant organizations to access the verification portal of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Abuja.

The unfortunate situation has prevented banks from rendering certain services to customers, whose NIN have to be verified on the NIMC verification portal.

Also affected are individuals who want to register for new SIM cards, as well as those seeking to apply for new international passports from the Nigeria Immigration Service, renew expired passports or apply for driver’s license.

At the Ikotun branch of a leading Tier-1 bank in Lagos with a robust technology platform, a middle-aged man called Mr Americana, who returned to the country on vacation two weeks ago angrily narrated the frustrating experience he had passed through in his quest to meet with the legal requirements of the country.

He said: “I have been here for two weeks (since Thursday, March 16). My plan was to use the vacation period to renew my passport and put some things in place. For me to be able to do the things I needed to do, I decided to open an account and get a new SIM card. It was then I learnt that I had to register for the NIN. I did that and got the NIN three days later. When I went with my in-law to get a SIM card, the young man who was handling the SIM registration service for the networks told me that my NIN could not be verified.

“He said the verification portal was not working and suggested that I come back the next day. That same day I went to Zenith Bank, to open an account and I got the same story that the NIN could not be confirmed because the portal was down. Since then it has been back and forth and hearing the same story that the portal is not working. I simply don’t understand this nonsense. Since I came in, I have not been able to make one call because I can’t get a SIM card. I am so cut off from communication with friends and relations. This shit is driving me nuts. Damn!”

Investigation by Sunday Sun at the Ikotun BRT bus terminal, where a phalanx of young men handle registration of new SIM cards with real-time equipment provided by the networks (MTN, GLO, AIRTEL), one of them who attended to Mr Americana said that he and his colleagues had been doing a lot of talking trying to pacify customers who bought SIM cards from them, but were still unable to register them because of the problem with the NIMC portal.

In accordance with a directive from the Federal Government, the NIMC portal allows telecommunications companies, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), banks, and organizations to verify the NIN of their customers before providing them with services.

Telecom companies are also required to synchronize their SIM registration portals with the NIMC portal in order to verify the information of their subscribers, following the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) directive that the NIN be added to the requirements for all new and existing SIM cards.

Businesses that use the NIN to provide services are suffering due to the inability to access the NIMC portal for NIN verification, and many Nigerians who are in need of these services are frustrated as a result.

When contacted on the potential cause of the unavailability of the portal, the Commission’s spokesman, Mr Kayode Adegoke, insisted that there was nothing wrong with the portal, claiming it could be poor network from the users’ end.

His words: “Our portal is not down. It is 100 per cent working. In fact, I can say one million per cent working. Maybe you should ask Immigration and the others why they can’t access it. It could be their network. As a matter of fact, someone called me this morning to say that he was able to do his passport in Lagos. So, our portal is not down at all.”

He, however, did not respond to questions on why several organizations were having trouble accessing the portal within the same period.

Several text messages and phone calls made to his line went unanswered as at the time of filing this report.

Officials at two different NIN enrolment centres directly operated by the NIMC at the Lagos State local government secretariats confirmed to Sunday Sun that they have been difficulties in accessing the portal for more than one week.

It is not the first time that reports of issues with the NIMC portal have been made. For instance, the portal went down for five days in February 2022, costing Telcos and other companies millions of Naira, due to what the Commission attributed to “maintenance service being carried out by one of its network service providers.”

When speaking on a Nigerian Television Authority programme in May 2022, NIMC Director General, Aliyu Aziz, stated that the commission’s database needed to be upgraded because it was operating at 80 per cent of its capacity and had more than 80 million unique NINs issued at the time.

He said: “So, we don’t have issues with that. Most of the time, our major challenges are either power or the bandwidth of the connectivity that we have, but not the infrastructure. We are trying to upgrade the system. We have gotten the government’s approval since July last year. We are following up to get the funding. Funding is a challenge, but I don’t want to call it a challenge because it is a challenge for everyone.”

The overall number of NIN enrolments reached 92.63 million as of December 2022, indicating that the NIMC’s database may have used up more than 90 per cent of its available space.

Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, claimed in October 2022 that President Muhammadu Buhari had given the go-ahead for the funding required to upgrade the outdated infrastructure at NIMC. Additionally, he mentioned that the budget for 2023 had a line item for this.

He said, “I obtained the approval of Mr President to replace their obsolete infrastructure, which we do hope will commence in early 2023.”

The proposed budget for 2023 includes N36.76 million for the renewal of the maintenance support agreement for the National Identity Management System infrastructure. Nonetheless, this is much less than the N128.37 million budgeted for 2022.

Nigeria’s digital identity ecosystem project, along with five others, was reported to have received World Bank approval in February 2020. The project’s goal is to strengthen the national identity system’s legal and technical safeguards to protect sensitive data and privacy.

The approved projects, valued at $2.2 billion, were designed to help the nation empower its people, especially members of marginalized groups, to access services that will improve their welfare.

Commenting on the current frustrations of Nigerians over the inaccessible NIMC verification portal, Digital Operations Media Manager of VONTH Media, Mr Jesse Keayn, urged the NIMC to urgently get the portal up and running again, saying that the downtime of the portal has severely hindered the Ease of Doing Business in the Buhari administration.

He also appealed to Nigerians affected by the failure of the verification portal to exercise a little patience, expressing his belief that the Commission’s technical team must be working assiduously to resolve the glitch.

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