Nigeria’s communication minister, Isa Pantami, on Thursday claimed that the policy of requiring Nigerians to obtain a National Identification Number (NIN) has significantly reduced occurrences of banditry and kidnapping.
He made this claim in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, while giving an account of his stewardship since assuming office, in 2019.
“Within less than 15 days in the office, we have engaged the NCC as a regulator. We have directed them to carry out an audit exercise to enable them to come up with unregistered and partial registered sims. They came with around 9.4 million which is enough to populate another country. It was the first time we didn’t know the total number of unregistered sims in the country.”
“And we went further to direct NCC, to ensure that by 25th September 2019, that is only one month and a few days in office, I spent there to ensure that by the end of September 2021, no sim that is not registered will be on our network. NCC as a regulator implemented that effectively.”
“From the end of September 2019, to 2020, you will discover that even kidnapping and banditry has been reduced to the barest minimum. It was a time that hardly can you spend one month or more without hearing about kidnapping. The more you come up with policies to make the system effective the more criminals will come up with another strategy to compromise the policies,” he was quoted.
But how true is this?
On December 15 2020, the federal government ordered all telecommunication service providers to instruct their subscribers to link their NIN with their SIM cards or risk blockage of their cards.
The announcement triggered an outrage on social media, with many civil society organisations threatening to sue the federal government. Also many individuals, who ordinarily would not have taken the enrolment seriously, trooped out to visit nearby NIMC registration centres, to avoid losing their SIM cards.
The government has since then repeatedly extended deadlines for the operation.
Insecurity in Nigeria
Bandits are fast taking charge of most parts of Nigeria particularly in the northern region of the country. Kidnappings of students have consistently been the order of the day as abductors often pull up on motorbikes at various schools.
The bandits continue to kill, rape, and plunder across the northwest, forcing more than 200,000 people out of their homes. Kidnapping is now an established criminal industry in Nigeria. Criminal gangs inhabit the vast forests that fringe the region – where there is little to no government presence and clandestine paths criss-cross the region.
Has NIN-SIM integration reduced kidnapping?
POLITICS NIGERIA in an analysis published on Thursday revealed that no fewer than 939 students have been abducted from various secondary and tertiary institutions from December 2020 to May 2021. According to a security report reviewed by our correspondent, 420 students were abducted at various schools in December.
While 333 students were abducted in Kankara in Katsina State, 84 students were abducted in Dandume LGA in the same state. Three others were kidnapped in Edo and Delta states. In February, 27 students, three staff members and 12 of their relatives were abducted in Kagara, Niger State. Another 279 students were again abducted in the same month at Jangebe in Zamfara state.
POLITICS NIGERIA reported how 39 students were abducted in Afaka, Kaduna state in March and 23 abducted in Greenfield university in the same state in April.
On May 30, another 136 students were kidnapped in an Islamic school in Niger.
Scary death figures
In April 2021 alone, 723 people were killed in violent attacks across Nigeria. A report by a non-governmental organisation, Nigeria Mourns revealed. Interestingly bandits were responsible for the death of 425 people killed that month. The report also showed that 407 people were abducted in the same month.
An earlier report by the initiative showed that at least 1,603 people were killed in violent attacks across Nigeria between January and March 2021. On the aspect of perpetrators, the report revealed that 921 people were killed by suspected bandits. It also showed that 1,774 people were abducted within the three months under review.
The rising insecurity has further led to agitation by many citizens for state policing. Aside from ordinary citizens, different state governors – Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Babagana Zulum of Borno, and Hope Uzodinma of Imo, among others, have been victims of violence as they or their properties have been attacked.
It would be recalled that the 17 governors in southern states recently asked the federal government to “convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.” They called on President Muhammadu Buhari to “address Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity.
The National Assembly had also called for a national security summit with the House of Representatives already announcing modalities for one of such.
Considering all of these facts, the claim by Mr Pantami that NIN-SIM integration has reduced banditry and kidnapping is not just UNPROVEN but outrightly FALSE.