UK diasporans are facing a major crisis as a result of the collapse of the Nigerian Identity Management Commission’s (NIMC) server in Abuja that has made it impossible for them to obtain National Identity Numbers (NIN) and subsequently renew their passports.
Introduced to address a number of problems including voter fraud, census figure manipulation, multiple identities and general data falsification, the NIN subscriber identity module data verification exercise was launched by NIMC. On Saturday, November 20, 2021, Nigeria’s interior minister launched the enhanced passport, for which all applicants must have a NIN, which must be submitted with their application.
Diasporans seeking to renew their passports can apply for a 32-page booklet with a five year validity, a 64-page booklet with a five year validity or a 64-page booklet with 10 year validity. For all of them, however, applicants need a valid NIN but over the last two weeks, the NIMC server has been down, meaning that new NINs cannot be processed.
In the UK, like in all other diaspora origins, private agencies are licensed to capture biometric data and then send this to NIMC who in turn issue a NIN. However, with the collapse of the NIMC server, the whole process has been put on hold, leaving applicants stranded and frustrated and helpless.
Ayo Akinfe, the chairman of the Central Association of Nigerians in the UK (Canuk) said: “This is totally unacceptable from NIMC as this crisis has left many of our people in impossible situations. There are people who want to travel and are awaiting their passports but the high commission cannot issue passports to them because NIMC cannot verify their NIN numbers.
“We even have people who the British Home Office has asked to come and receive their definite right to remain in the UK but they cannot do so because their passports are not out due to this crisis. I am not aware of any other country on planet earth where a server is out of action for more than a few hours.”
Canuk, the umbrella body responsible for looking after the welfare of all Nigerians in the UK, has raised the matter with Ambassador Sarafa Ishola, the Nigerian high commissioner to London and with Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chairperson of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (Nidcom). According to Mr Akinfe, unfortunately, neither the high commission nor Nidcom can do anything about the matter as they too can only wait for the NIMC server to get up and running.
Mr Akinfe added that the high commission cannot issue passports to anyone who does not have a NIN and anyone affected by the crisis cannot buy mobile data if they visit Nigeria. Agents who work providing NIN to diasporans gave seen their operations paralysed and Canuk has had to suspend its national roadshow programme taking registration to the regions.
Another big problem that the collapse of the server has led to is that it has hindered the issuance of bank verification numbers (BVN). Canuk has entered into an arrangement with Providus Bank to open accounts for UK diasporans but to do so, all applicants needed a BVN, which is also provided by NIMC.
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