The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has said it shut down its Lagos centre, on Monday, because the crowd that gathered there refused to comply with COVID-19 protocols.
The NIMC office at Alausa, Ikeja, was stormed by hundreds of people who wanted to enrol for the National Identity Number (NIN) on Monday.
The Director of Corporate Communications of NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, gave the reason for the shut down in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
An official at the Lagos centre who asked not to be named had told PREMIUM TIMES that they started the biometric capturing around 7:00 a.m. on Monday.
He confirmed that hundreds of people had arrived at the gate to be captured.
“When I got here at 6:23 a.m., I couldn’t drive in, I had to park my car somewhere else.”
He said the process was coordinated at first, as the officials moved 170 people in to sit, while others were left outside the gate for orderliness.
“All of a sudden, those at the gate forced the gate open and all rushed in. That was when the problem started. They were uncontrollable,” he added.
He said at the time, pictures were taken and circulated and they got an order from Abuja to stop the process, saying they were attending to the first 25 people at the time.
The official added that police officers and officers of the National Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) were called in to intervene.
Mr Adegoke, the spokesperson of the commission, told PREMIUM TIMES that the centre had to be shut as COVID-19 protocols were not being observed.
He faulted Nigerians for “last minute rush” as, according to him, the commission had made the announcement of blocking SIM cards without NIN since March.
“In Lagos, the crowd is too much. What we are trying to do now is once you get there, let them do booking, we are adopting a booking system,” he said.
Mr Adegoke said with the booking system, people will be given slots and once the daily slot is finished, others will be given another date.
He added that security agents will partner with the commission to forestall incidents that could lead to the breakdown of law and order.
“We will attend to all Nigerians, there is no need to panic. There is no need to panic.
He said the enrollment process would continue Tuesday but the centre will adopt a booking system where people will be given tallies.
He said those unable to register on Tuesday will be given another day to come for registration.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Nigerian government last week announced that subscribers to all networks in the country are mandated to provide their NIN, else they would be blocked from using their SIM cards.
The government gave two weeks deadline, after which SIM cards without NIN will be blocked.
“After the deadline, ALL SIMs without NINs are to be blocked from the networks,” the NIMC spokesperson had said.
Despite the short notice and outrage by Nigerians, the government said there would be no extension of the deadline.
NIMC shuts down
In a bid to prevent their SIM cards being blocked, hundreds of Lagos residents on Monday stormed the NIMC office at Alausa, Ikeja.
The office, which opened officially at 8 a.m., had numerous people waiting at the gate as early as 5 a.m. to be registered.
The enrollees complained of not being able to register for NIN at their various local governments as the officials allegedly collect money for form and end up referring them to the Alausa office for the completion of their NIN.
“I got here at 7 a.m., the crowd here was much. Shortly after I arrived they distributed forms to people based on the slot their earlier gave.
“I struggled to get number 167, but when it was time for form collection, I got form with number 118,” Olamide Mustapha said.
He said after the gate was opened and the first person called in for his biometric capturing, a man came him and ordered the NIMC officials to stop.
“He said it was order from above and it is because of COVID-19, ” Mr Mustapha said.
The commission’s office was subsequently shut down and many of the enrollees dispersed.
Another enrollee, Bayo Adeyemi, who came from Ikotun, told PREMIUM TIMES that the commission lacks good management as there was no coordination and people were left attended to for a long.
Many enrollees interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES confirmed that there was no compliance with COVID-19 protocols as the crowd was “uncontrollable.”
Although many had their face masks on, there was no physical distancing.
“No COVID-19 protocol was observed, people were too much, no queue was maintained. You know the typical nature of people, everybody wants to register at once, it was really bad,” an enrollee said.