… dismissed officials indicted for illegal printing of NIM
… Abujaagos, Kogi registration centres affected
•How NIMC encouraged corruption –Source
Ihuoma Chiedozie and Tunde Ajaja
The National Identity Management Commission has dismissed six of its workers for engaging in extortion in the course of the ongoing National Identity Number enrolment exercise, investigations by Sunday PUNCH have revealed.
Our correspondent also learnt that some of the dismissed workers were indicted for illegal and unauthorised printing of the NIN for external organisations.
A letter, with reference number NIMC/P/HQ/14662/52, and dated December 9, 2019, addressed by the NIMC management to one of the dismissed workers, who was a senior officer, explained that the termination of appointment took effect from December 11, 2019.
The officer was dismissed after investigations and deliberations by the NIMC Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee, which had earlier invited him on October 24, 2019, over allegations of extortion and illegal printing of the NIN.
The committee said the officer’s actions breached the security and integrity of the NIMC, and therefore directed him to hand over all official property in his possession, including ID card, to the Federal Capital Territory coordinator.
In the letter, which was seen by our correspondent, the dismissed officer was informed that he was not entitled to any compensation from the commission as the termination of appointment bordered on serious misconduct.
Checks by our correspondent also revealed that besides the senior officer dismissed in the commission’s FCT office, some other NIMC workers were also sacked for engaging in extortion and bribery.
An internal memo, dated December 12, 2019, which was addressed to all regional and state coordinators, cluster heads and Enrolment/Registration Centre supervisors, disclosed that two officers in Lagos State, and an Assistant Manager in Kogi State, were also dismissed.
The memo, with the heading, ‘The menace of extortion to the corporate image of NIMC’, directed the supervisors and heads of units to “improve their supervisory roles” and constantly remind the members of staff under their stewardship” of the gravity of the punishment to be meted to any of the staff members involved in any form or shape of extortion.”
In the memo, signed by Umar Abdulhamid, General Manager, Operations, the commission lamented that the issue of extortion in the NIMC had put it in bad light and that its recurrence nationwide had become very disheartening, embarrassing and worrisome to the management. It, however, warned that supervisors would be held responsible for the actions of their subordinates, especially when it concerns extortion or bribery.
The memo, which was partly seen by our correspondent, read, “Furthermore, you are notified by this memo that the full weight of the law will be applied on any staff member found culpable of this ugly act of extortion. Please be informed also that both ‘the giver and the taker’ of the bribe will be reprimanded accordingly,” adding that any accused employee would not be denied their right to fair hearing.
However, sources in the NIMC, who asked not to be named, said poor funding and poor welfare packages for workers were responsible for cases of extortion in the NIN enrolment exercise.
One of the sources said, “In 2013/2014 when many new staff members were employed, there was no extortion, workers were not accepting gifts as appreciation or gratification and this continued until 2015 when salaries were being slashed and funding for operations reduced drastically.”
The source added that the management encouraged staff members to seek financial support to enable the commission to continue the NIN enrolment. The source, however, noted that the directive from the management was among the factors that encouraged extortion.
The source said, “Management issued a memo directing the coordinators to think outside the box, to go to state governors, corporate bodies, influential persons, traditional rulers, local government chairmen and others to solicit support to carry out the enrolment.
“As a result, workers started carrying computer systems to where they could find people to register in the hope of receiving gratification. As a result of poor salaries and the stressful nature of the enrolment exercise, some members of staff started charging token for enrolment and part of the money received was shared for transport and lunch.”
Another memo seen by our correspondent confirmed that the management directed the commission’s workers to seek financial support for the enrolment exercise.
The memo, with the heading, ‘Re: NIMC account details’, dated March 19, 2019, and addressed to zonal and state coordinators, directed that every donation received must be paid into the commission’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The memo partly read, “The management is aware of donations, monetary contributions and grants from individuals and state governments, etc, to our NIMC state offices as a form of support to fund the ERCs.
“However, in order to have proper accountability and to ensure that these donations are properly appropriated, the commission has put measures in place to the extent that going forward, all monetary contributions, donations and grants received by any of the commission’s state offices should henceforth be paid into the commission’s account.”
A CBN account – National Identity Management Commission, 0020451061028 – was provided in the memo as the account where all financial support for the enrolment exercise should be paid into.
But the source informed our correspondent that funds being received by the commission as financial support were not enough to effectively prosecute the enrolment exercise and take care of the welfare of enrolment officers who were said not to be receiving any allowance.
The source added that management had refused to pursue presidential assent for the commission’s staff to be paid according to the Consolidated Paramilitary Salary Structure, as approved by the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission since December 2017.
Rather, according to the source, salaries of NIMC workers are being slashed for undisclosed reasons.
The source noted that the funding and welfare challenges pushed some staff members to engage in extortion, and also forced others into failing to remit financial donations into the commission’s account.
When contacted for the management’s reaction, the General Manager, Legal Services, Hadiza Dagabana, confirmed the dismissal of the workers, saying “about six workers” were dismissed for extortion after investigations by a disciplinary committee.
Asked if the dismissed workers were protesting the termination of their appointments, she said they were free to go to court and that the commission could also prosecute them.
However, when asked to respond to allegations that NIMC management encouraged extortion by directing workers to solicit financial support, she insisted that extortion was not the same thing as seeking assistance.
Dagabana said, “If the management said you should seek financial support, you should write officially and document it. There are states and local governments that have offered support and the support was documented. We don’t collect money in our offices, whatever we do is through Remita.
“Seeking support is different from extortion. Extortion is when you demand money from people as a condition for enrolling them.”
She said members of the public should report cases of extortion with documented evidence, adding that the commission had also directed its workers to report members of the public who attempt to induce them with bribes.
The Federal Government had in September 2018 approved the mandatory use of the National Identity Number with effect from January 1, 2019. It explained that the initiative was to facilitate the collection of citizens’ biometric data nationwide within the shortest time possible.
The NIMC also said on its website that when it comes to access to vital services, like passport issuance, banking services, land transactions, insurance services, pension, health insurance, payment of taxes, voter’s registration, consumer credits, and all government services, the NIN would become necessary.
The NIN is a set of numbers assigned to an individual upon successful enrolment and it entails the recording of an individual’s demographic data and capture of the 10 fingerprints, head-to-shoulder facial picture and digital signature, which are all used to cross-check existing data in the National Identity Database to confirm that there is no previous entry of the same data.
The NIMC is the agency saddled with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria.
A statement by its Head, Corporate Communications, Loveday Ogbonna, said, “Federal Executive Council has approved the immediate commencement of the implementation of a strategic roadmap for Digital Identity Ecosystem in Nigeria at its meeting, held on Wednesday, September 12th, 2018 and chaired by the President (Major General) Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), GCFR.”
The Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, noted that the FEC approval of the Identity Ecosystem would bring into full force the implementation of the provisions of the NIMC Act 23, 2007, which include the enforcement of the mandatory use of the National Identification Number by January 1, 2019.
He said it would also include the application of appropriate sanctions and penalties on defaulters as provided under Section 28 of the NIMC Act and Regulations.
He added that the project fell in line with the Federal Government’s efforts to reposition the country’s status in the global economy towards achieving the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan launched in April 2017.
Aziz explained further that the ERGP was designed “as an omnibus strategy for the government to meet the critical needs of the citizenry in areas such as food security, energy, transport, human capital development, but more critically developing a local digital economy.
To further enforce the usage of the NIN, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board said few weeks ago that starting from 2020, only candidates with their NIN would be registered and by extension be allowed to take the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination.
Earlier in the year, the NIMC and the Nigerian Immigration Service had also said that persons without the NIN would not be allowed to obtain or renew their passports, with effect from April 29, 2019.
To further demonstrate the importance of the NIN, the NIMC said all Nigerians abroad would also be captured to ensure that all Nigerian citizens in Nigeria and the diaspora and Legal Residents in Nigeria are enrolled into the National Identity Database and issued the unique National Identification Number to applicants upon successful enrolment.
It had been observed at the different passport control offices across the country that persons without the NIN were not allowed to register or renew their passports. And on the new electronic passport approved by the Federal Government, the NIN is reflected on the data page.
Foreign countries where the enrolment exercise had been extended to include South Africa, United Arab Emirate and the United Kingdom, among others.