The Federal Government on Wednesday said it had given licences to selected private and public institutions to provide National Identification Numbers (NIN) to citizens both in urban areas and rural communities.

Responding to an enquiry on complaints by rural dwellers over their inability to access NIN registration centres, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami said the Federal Government was addressing the matter. He also affirmed that a private company had deployed over 14,000 facilities nationwide for the registration of citizens who did not have NINs.

He said, “Based on global practice, NIMC is supposed to be more of a regulator than operator and so we started the process of restricting NIMC to do more of regulating the sector than operating in the industry.”

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Pantami added, “It is because of this that NIMC has given licences to many states to establish centres and more than 10 states have obtained these licences.

“NIMC has given the same licence of operating and providing digital ID to institutions such as NCC, EFCC, CBN, the National Population Commission, among others.”

According to Pantami, all the organisations were free to establish their centres across the country and give NINs, as the numbers were free to all citizens including legal residents in Nigeria.

“So, they have been given the licences to operate and some other companies have also been given licenses to operate. One of them imported over 14,000 facilities and they will be deployed all over the country.” He said.

In another development, the Nigerian Communications Commission on Wednesday allays fears of mass disconnection from the telecommunications network.

The NCC said its attention had been drawn to numerous publications regarding fears of mass disconnection of telephone subscribers as a result of the ongoing linkage of SIM registration records with NIN.

In a statement issued in Abuja, the spokesperson, NCC, Ikechukwu Adinde, said that it was necessary to provide clarification in order to allay the fears of subscribers and the general public.

The NCC said, “A recent survey conducted in Nigeria has shown that on average, there are now approximately four to five SIMs to every human subscriber.

“This explains the basis of allowing the linkage of up to seven SIMs to one unique NIN in the recently launched Federal Government portal.

“Thus, if there are 43 million Nigerians with NINs, this could account for about 172 million SIMs already linked to NINs.”

NCC said it was very important to emphasise that the current exercise of linking NIN to SIMs was for the common good of all Nigerians, as it had far reaching benefits.

It stated that apart from enhancing general safety, the process would help in such vital exercises like national budgeting, policy planning, social intervention programme and many more.

According to the NCC, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy had assured Nigerians that the government would continue to review the exercise in the light of experiences to ensure its smooth implementation.

As the call for the extension of the deadline on the registration of SIM cards with valid National Identification Numbers intensifies, the Federal Government has insisted that it gave enough time for the process.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, told journalists in Abuja on Wednesday that the Federal Government never gave two weeks for the registration process as widely claimed, rather it gave more than 10 months.