The biometric capturing of Nigerians for National Identity Numbers (NINs) may have suffered a setback due to the failure of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to pay outstanding debt owed to its Front End Partners (FEPs).
LEADERSHIP’s checks revealed that the front end partners engaged as enrolment agents in 2020 to complement the NIMC are being owed arrears of two years for the enrollment of Nigerians through the agency.
One of the front end partners told this paper in confidence that they were engaged in January 2020 when the federal government discovered that the NIMC outlets could not meet the target of enrolling over 200 million Nigerians.
The source who did not want his name in print said despite the agreement to be paying the front end partners on a monthly basis, they only received payment for six months in 2021, and since then the management of NIMC has consistently failed to redeem its financial obligations in the last two years.
He said: “From January 2022 to this time that we are speaking now, they haven’t paid a kobo! And people have been working every month. The idea of the front end partners came because the offices of NIMC scattered across the country weren’t getting reasonable results and the cost of enrolment in those centres was seriously prohibitive.
“Some were paying N5,000, some were paying N10,000, whereas, officially, enrolment should cost (the enrollee) zero. So, in the wisdom of the previous management itself, they said, ‘okay, let the FEPs start to do it and nobody is expected to charge any money and they were supposed to pay them on a month-to-month basis.
“The month-to-month is what started in January 2000 to November 2023 that we are speaking now, which too could dovetail into December to make it exactly two years that the government refused to pay one dime to the front end partners.
“The implication of this is that many people have invested; they took loans from small scale finance banks to buy the equipment and machines to do the enrolment.”
Confirming the position of our source, an official at the NIMC national head office in Abuja admitted that the immediate past director-general/chief executive officer (CEO) of the agency, Engineer Aliyu Azeez, had reached an understanding to pay the Front End Partners.
The NIMC official told our correspondent in confidence that while the former DG had given his commitment to offset the outstanding payment, the new director-general/CEO, Engineer Abisoye-Coker Odusote, stopped the payment in order to carry out what she called a revalidation process.
Our source said, “Nothing is working; it is only our NIMC offices that are doing enrollment and we have gone back to that problematic period of people queuing and rushing because there are limited locations for them. We thought that was resolved but we have come back to that. Well, the management is saying that they want to revalidate some people.”
The NIMC official further told LEADERSHIP that the implication of shutting down the FEPs is that the NIMC officers are now overwhelmed.
“We want to believe that when they finish this revalidation process, the job will continue because two months is a long time. This shutdown has been since October; we are in November now. So, if they don’t open by December, we have lost three months of enrollment.
“When you don’t enroll, people that want to get their international passport can’t do it because they need NIN. They will be the ones that will be rushing to the outlets of NIMC and most of our outlets aren’t really doing much.”
But Ayodele Babalola, special adviser on media to the director-general/CEO of NIMC, Engineer Abisoye-Coker Odusote, dispelled claims of threat to enrollment, just as he explained the delay in payment of the Front End Partners.
In a telephone chat with our correspondent, Babalola said the new management was determined to carry out a process of revalidation of the Front End Partners, which he said was targeted at ensuring the highest standards of data security and compliance.
He said, “The NIN project is not under any threat because enrollment is still ongoing at NIMC’s state and local government offices across the federation.
“The revalidation exercise of the FEPs is in line with efforts to ensure a more secure NIN registration and modification process as part of NIMC’s commitment to ensuring the highest standards of data security and compliance.
“The exercise would also ensure seamless and secured NIN enrollment and modification services as well as complete elimination of infractions.
“All necessary machinery has been put in place to ensure its quick conclusion so as to be able to settle their debts before renewal of their licences,” he said.