SERAP urges Buhari to stop NIN registration, withdraw threats to block SIM cards

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, to stop the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Pantami, and the Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission, Aliyu Abubakar, from ordering Nigerians to register for their National Identification Number and linking same to their SIM cards.

The group, which urged Buhari to order Pantami and Abubakar to withdraw the threat to block all SIM cards not linked with the NIN, noted that such information was already available on several platforms like the bank verification numbers, driving licence, passport and voters’ card.

SERAP, while stating that no government had the right to strip its citizens of their rights under the guise of registration for the NIN and exposing its citizens to the risks of COVID-19, appealed to the President to ensure that the NIMC harmonized and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies with the national identity database, and use the information to update SIM card registration.

The group, in a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said, “The request for Nigerians to register for the NIN is burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary. It will end up serving no other purpose than to threaten and violate the rights of Nigerians and create a ‘chilling effect’ on citizens’ ability to participate in the fight against corruption in the country, and thereby seriously undermining the government’s oft-repeated commitment to transparency and accountability.”

In a letter dated December 19, 2020, and copied the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Pantami, and Abubakar, the group urged the Federal Government to indicate the measures being taken to stop the NIN registration, withdraw the threat to block SIM cards, and take concrete measures to promptly ensure that the NIMC harmonized and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies with the national identity database within seven days of the receipt of the letter.

The letter read in part, “There is neither a pressing legal or practical need for this registration, which threatens Nigerians’ human rights, especially at a time your government is warning Nigerians about the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

“Blocking Nigerians from using their SIM cards will amount to a blatant violation of their rights to freedom of expression and access to information, and have a ‘chilling effect’ on the enjoyment of other human rights.

“We will be grateful if your government will indicate the measures being taken to stop the unnecessary registration of the NIN, withdraw the threat to block SIM cards, and take concrete measures to promptly ensure that the NIMC is able to faithfully discharge its statutory functions to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies into the National Identity Database within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the interest of millions of Nigerians.”

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