THE directive last week by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy that the National Identity Number, NIN, has become mandatory for a subscriber to carry a mobile phone is not only a slap on the faces of Nigerians already going through very troubled times but a plain manifestation that arbitrariness is being elevated to the dizzy heights of national policy.
Operators have been given only two weeks to comply and ensure that over 190m subscribers on their networks are properly registered. Or your operating license withdrawn.
We view this as a death sentence for the telecommunications industry, and some experts cautioned last week that a reversal of industry fortunes has been set afoot by an obnoxious official proclamation. One operator moaned that the regulator wants to wipe out at least more than half of the subscriber base of the industry.
We agree that times are desperate in Nigeria, very desperate. Whole mass of students are spirited away from school and they reappear after a whole week in the den of criminals. Road travel has become a nightmare for the ordinary and the mighty ones. Bandits have taken over the roads and the farms.
Quite unfortunately even for the rich, air travel is beyond the reach of those who used to fly except the hedonists who steal the people’s money for plain pleasure.
According to figures from the National Population Commission, NPC, very bizarre decisions are being taken to rubbish the collective intelligence of a nation and expose the citizenry to ridicule before the international community. So, using failure in security as pressure point, the ministry under the grip of Isa Pantami has given a directive capable of destroying the entire communications industry except common sense prevails.
The December 15, 2020, statement signed by Public Affairs Director, Ikechuckwu Adinde, which affirmed earlier directive for operators to totally suspend registration of new SIMs, stated among others: “Operators to require all their subscribers to provide valid National Identification Number, NIN, to update SIM registration records; The submission of NIN by subscribers to take place within two weeks (from today, December 16, 2020 and end by December 30, 2020).
After the deadline, all SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks.” While conceding the pervasive security challenges, there has been outrage across the land; understandably, by subscribers who feel that apart from the suffering that has worsened more because of COVID-19, a major inconvenience is being added to their burden.
Recall that the country’s economy has gone into recession again and is not expected to recover until late 2021, a development that is forcing more Nigerians to fall into the poverty pit.
Journalists immediately reached out to a powerful industry source to ask if the directive could be executed in two weeks. The answer was an emphatic NO. They also reached out to a source in the regulatory institution. Is this what should have been done? The answer again was NO. Let’s try to unwrap the intricacies of the unfolding story.
The SIM Card registration regime started in 2011. The exercise was carried out simultaneously by licensed agents of the NCC and the mobile operators. NCC was to warehouse the data. An understanding at the time was that, because of the sensitive nature of personal data, all data will be handed over to the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, whose responsibility it is to manage the National Identity Database. Till date the progress recorded in that area opens windows to speculations and recriminations.
It is interesting to point out here that NIMC was established in 2007. In all the years of existence, the organisation has succeeded in registering only 43.6m! So what magic wand will it wave to accomplish the act in two weeks?
According to figures gleaned from the NCC website, there were 207,954,737 subscribers on the four mobile networks of MTN, Airtel, GLO and 9Mobile by October 2020. An industry source told Vanguard last week that of this figure, about 120m are unique subscribers, discounting double registration of mobile numbers, while the rest could be used in personal internet modems, sectors like banking, vehicle tracking and other sectors where mobile communications have become very handy. There has to be a way to capture these numbers and this cannot be enforced overnight.
Matching the 120m subscriber figure with their NINs is a nightmare which will rubbish the two-week window. For the journey to start at all, all the companies being licensed by NIMC, one expert explained, will have to source for their equipment and get them certified by NIMC before procurement and purchases can take place. To make any meaningful impact immediately, the industry may need at least 250,000 of those machines which are not manufactured here.
Moreover, the NIMC machines are not what are easily sourced in the open market. They are called the 442 machines because they can take four fingers at a go and take the remaining two fingers once. They are more robust than the SIM Card registration machines which can take only two fingers at a time.
The source told journalists that this is a logistics nightmare that can hardly be afforded by some of the companies being recruited by NIMC at the moment. Industry observers are of the opinion that the President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly should put a leash on the minister before he totally destroys the telecommunications industry.
In attendance at the meeting that had to do purely with the regulation of the industry were the CEOs of NCC, the National Information Development Agency, NITDA, and NIMC. At least one operator told Vanguard they were never at the meeting; instead the minister is taking all the decisions which he is shoving down their throat, thus increasing the fear that the regulator is increasingly losing direction and hold on the industry.
Strains of helplessness are already showing. “We don’t know why the Executive Vice Chairman, EVC, is unable to call some meetings. We are not able to sit down to negotiate on anything,” the source lamented.
Those who fear the directive may become a dangerous super spreader of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been proven right when, last week, somewhere in Abuja, an eye witness told Vanguard that some youths who had gathered for two days at one registration spot, suddenly started demonstrating on noticing the near futility of the exercise and how some advantaged personalities were bending all the rules to favour a few.
The desperation to register will obviously rubbish the PTF recommendation on social distancing in a season of pandemic. Meanwhile, more trouble looms for the industry. A knowledgeable industry source told Vanguard that, if not properly managed, the directive could destroy half the base of the industry, stymie revenue and investment, and lead to massive job losses.
But all these could pale into insignificance if the minister ever executes his growing threats that “violations of this directive will be met by stiff sanctions, including the possibility of withdrawal of operating license.” This is hardly the way to speak to organisations that have invested heavily in your economy.
Kano approves free health care for 553 people living with HIV
Kano State government has approved enrolment of 553 people living with HIV/AIDS to access free health care services through basic health care provision fund for the attainment of Universal healthcare coverage in the state.
Kano Focus reports that the executive secretary of the state contributory healthcare management Agency Halima Muhammad Mijinyawa disclosed this at a courtesy visit to her counterpart of the Agency for the Control of AIDS, Sabitu Shanono on Monday.
Mrs Mijinyawa said she was in the Agency to inform him the resolution for the selection of eligible beneficiaries and criteria for enrollment.
She explained that the Basic health provision fund is a federal government intervention that falls under the equity program of contributory health care scheme aimed at providing free health care service to the pregnant women, children under five, elderly, poorest of the poor and people with disabilities.
In his remarks, the Director-General of the State Agency for the control of AIDS, Sabitu Shanono expressed satisfaction with integration of people living with HIV/AIDS into the program.
He applauded the Agency for the gesture and pleaded for more slots of HIV/AIDS patient into the program.
The Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) is a key component of the National Health Act (NHA) that ensures basic minimum health package for Nigerians. It is derived from a minimum of one per cent (1%) of the federal government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
The act was passed into law in 2014 as part of actions towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Nigeria. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) means ensuring that people get access to quality healthcare without suffering financial hardships.
Kano state is expected to flag-off the enrollment of beneficiaries this December.
International partners such as UK funded Lafiya programme are supporting the implementation of the programme in Kano state.
Kano Anti Corruption recovers over N100m in 2020
Mukhtar Yahya Usman
TheKano state Public Complaint and Anti – Corruption Commission PCACC says it has recovered over N100 million from January to December, 2020.
Kano Focus reports that the chairman of the Commission Muhyi Magaji Rimin Gado revealed this on Wednesday during Public Presentation of Anti – Corruption Strategy and official Commissioning of Kano Anti – corruption Institute.
The event is part of the Commission’s activities to mark this year’s International Anti – Corruption Day.
Mr Rimin Gado said the commission was able to recover the funds through its tireless efforts in keeping the state free from corruption with the support of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
He added that the commission had also settled disputes among warring parties and returned many lands to their real owners.
Mr Rimingado attributed the success recorded by the Commission to non – interference from the state government in it’s activities.
“Kano is the only state in Nigeria that has put in place, robust mechanism to fight corruption in the country.
“And the state government had made anti-corruption law to complement the President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.” He said.
He disclosed that the commission would soon launch Anti – Corruption strategy to give way for Open Government Partnership (OGP), aimed at strengthening transparency in governance.
“To further strengthen our anti-corruption fight, we have set up anti-corruption unites in all the 44 Local Government areas of this state.
“We have indeed recorded a lot of successes, courtesy of freedom given to us by governor Ganduje to operate freely without interference,” he emphasized.
In his remarks, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje said his administration would not rest of in the fight against “the cancer militating the progress of Nigeria.”
Ganduje, represented by his deputy, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna said his administration has provided robust strategies to help the fight against corruption.
He restarted the commitment of his administration to support PCACC in a bid to fight corruption in all ramifications.
This week in Kano history: Fire killed 331 in El-Duniya Cinema
On May 13, 1951, fire razed down El-Duniya Cinema killing 331 out of an audience of 600.
It was the highest number of casualties in a one-day disaster in the recorded history of Kano.
An inquiry by the British colonial government found that the fire started at the projection room and spread along the ceiling of the cinema located beside the Kantin Kwari and Sabon Gari markets.
Almost all the victims were young men aged 18-34 with some children including a 9-year-old who thronged the cinema for an afternoon show.
Many of the dead had been trapped because the theater owner had locked the doors to prevent people sneaking in without paying. Others were caught in the crush as patrons rushed back into the burning theater to collect their bicycles.
The Prophet’s Image
However, the tragedy was interpreted by most Kano citizens as divine retribution for participating in immoral activities.
Rumors quickly spread that the film being screened that day at El-Duniya portrayed the image of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Others believed that during construction of the cinema people passing everyday cursed the builder and therefore it was engulfed not just by flames but by the combined magical force of these curses.
These rumors grew so strong that the colonial Government was forced to take official notice and counter them over the radio.
Twice daily for two days in four different languages, the Radio Diffusion Service announced there was no truth to the stories that the people handling the bodies of El-Duniya victims died, or that Native Authority Warders who helped in the tragedy had all gone mad, or that prisoners from Kano prison (who helped in handling the corpses) could not eat for days afterwards.
Culled from Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria by Brian Larkin (2008)
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