Technology, SIM and mobile telephone is fast shaping human interaction, governance, and business processes. This has been greeted with warm reception in the Nigerian context and the evolution has been very encouraging since the advent of mobile communication in the country.
Many businesses have upscaled since mobile adoption and a teeming number of unemployed youths constituting about 62% of the economy are looking inwards to get themselves a means of livelihood through the opportunities inherent in technology.
The covid experience actually made a difference in the unemployment gap bedeviling the country and a lot of people are already reaping the benefits of the new normal.
Companies had to downsize to reduce operational costs and freelancing has since become the norm in the new normal. Mobile phones and virtual offices are taking over from the conventional office space we are used to. Business trusts are now evaluated on relationship management which in this case is rooted in telephone etiquette.
These are gains of technological advancements as planned by the Nigerian Stakeholders in the digital realm. Unfortunately, this advancement may be thwarted with the recent announcement to deactivate the Subscribers Identification modules of mobile users who do not conform to the NIN registration within two weeks.
As usual, opinion samples were taken from Nigerians and the socio-economic impacts of this singular action were x-rayed. The revelations from this announcement are quite worrisome and call for special attention if we have to enjoy a smooth 2021 and not a repeat of a troubled year.
It is very important to note that the year has come with a lot of challenges and it might be another avenue for some elements of the society to start exploiting the populace out of their lean resources considering the importance of this registration.
Questions were raised about the technological capacity of the stakeholders to make this happen given the very short notice given to the teeming population of mobile users across the country for compliance. We will recall that while the Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examination was to be held, this also came to the fore and students had to grapple with NIN registration with limited technological capacity.
It became a problem for the students and was eventually for the students to write the examination after realizing that it was just a grandiose ambition.
While reacting to the policy in a press statement signed Valery Nijaba, the Communications officer of Paradigm Initiative, sought for the Nigerian government immediate restraint from actualizing the order at the given time frame adding that the exercise will only amount to a brazen violation of fundamental human right and freedom of expression as provided by Section 39 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution.
Paradigm Initiative in the release posited that the SIM registration policy has created panic among the citizenry since the announcement even in the face of another wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
“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.” He said.
Expressing his dissatisfaction over the development, he said: “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 weaponizing 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”.
This leads us to the big question, “what novel mercenary has been put in place to address the technological capacity of the stakeholders in addressing the registration of mobile users in this time frame if students cannot be properly serviced?”
Is there any consideration for the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic rules?. This became important considering the fact that many citizens will not be able to go out there to queue at SIM registration centers owing to pandemic scare. We cannot but wonder how the stakeholders hope to achieve this within the record short notice.
Were the rural dwellers factored into this decision?. Rural dwellers are an important part of our informal sector as their contributions immensely impact our GDP as a nation. Another earnest question- “what happens to their SIM cards, businesses and national contributions when they cannot make use of their mobile phones to reach out to customers they serve?”.
This is negative on the part of the stakeholders because the means of livelihood for the citizenry will be jeopardized by this announcement. Technology has come to stay but there is the need for the stakeholders to apply the right peg to the right hole for measurable impacts. Now that 173 agents were approved by the Federal government to reinforce compliance with the registration.
The frustration that greeted the announcement can be seen from the opinion poll conducted by techbuild.africa, one of our respondents said:
“Many citizens have tried without success to register for the NIN. I have done so thrice. One was at the Stanbic IBTC branch on Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island. I have since tried to use the slip they issued me that day in the bank only for it to draw a null (NIN). I have done the online version—the same result”
While speaking with our crew on the timing of such a sensitive decision and the time frame for compliance, he added that:
“The order comes as workers everywhere are shutting down for the year. National Identity Management Commission has notoriously been unable to manage the national identity process for more than eight years. How will it do so in two weeks? Baffling is the fact that their CEO sat at that conference and did not own up to the logistical impossibility of such a task”.
Another question every citizen might want to ask is; “Now that humans have been deployed, where comes the machines needed for the operation”. A silent reminder is a fact that these agents and their workers will not be working for free.
It is worthy of note also that the Socio-economic factors such as unemployment occasioned by the Covid experience might make it difficult for compliance in this new normal where people are out of jobs and resorting to freelancing as a means of sustenance. Since freelancing relies heavily on internet service which is SIM-enabled for a lot of people, this decision may be greeted with stiff restrictions.
In essence, this short notice will no doubt spark a negative reaction as business owners will be cut away from their lean resources thereby increasing unemployment, crippling economic activities, and ultimately set back the GDP as the nation stare inflation and social vices right in the face.
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