Thousands of telecommunication subscribers nationwide seeking to retrieve their lost Subscriber Identity Module cards or acquire new lines temporarily have been left stranded, following a technical glitch in the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) portal that has grounded SIM-related services.
The affected NIMC portal enables telecom firms, the Nigerian Immigration Service, banks and other organisations to verify the National Identity Number of their customers before attending to them, in line with the Federal Government’s directive.
Responding to complaints from users, MTN Nigeria said the “NIMC application is currently unavailable.
“Please bear with us as we are unable to process sim swap and upgrade requests at the moment. Feedback will be shared as soon as the issue is resolved. Apologies for the inconvenience this may cause you.”
NIMC spokesperson Kayode Adegoke in a statement on Monday, said: “No one should be debarred of any service on the guise of NIN not being verified.
“Even though the NIN Verification Service (NVS) might be down due to maintenance by one of our service providers of its infrastructure, the alternative platform – TOKENISATION is up and running,” the spokesperson said.
“There is the need to ask questions from the Telcos, NIS, banks and others on the reason for turning down customers in the guise of NIN not being verified due to the temporary unavailability of the NVS, while the alternative platform- Tokenization is working!!!
“NIMC NVS platform is not the only verification platform available for use, but Tokenisation which protects the identity of NIN holders is also up and running!!!
“And for accurate information, it is not a NIMC problem, rather, a government service provider has embarked on maintenance of its infrastructure, which has affected most government agencies that rely on it for the provision of IT service.
“But for us in NIMC, the TOKENIZATION is available for the verification of the NIN before rendering services.”
In a statement on Saturday, the NIMC had confirmed the problem, which it attributed to ongoing maintenance.
“The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) wishes to inform the general public that its NIN verification Service (NVS) is temporarily unavailable due to the maintenance service being carried out by one of the Commission’s network service providers,” the statement said.
“The NIMC wants to assure the public that verification and authentication services would be restored once the maintenance is concluded.
“The Commission apologises for any inconvenience this might cause our esteemed customers, as all hands are on deck to ensure speedy restoration.
“Meanwhile, the public can make use of the alternative Tokenisation verification platform.”
The affected NIMC portal allows third parties to confirm the identity of customers.
Apart from telecoms firms, financial institutions and government agencies also rely on the service.
“The biggest implication is the loss of trust,” said technology analyst Fred Agbata. “People who depend on things manually are told technology is a better option, but then downtimes can make their lives more miserable.”
Agbata also noted that the NVS downtime should lead to questions about how safe the system is in protecting the information of millions of Nigerians.
Last month a hacker identified as Sam claimed he had found a bug on the NIMC server that could be used to breach the system.
The NIMC at the time debunked the hacker’s claims.
“Over the years, through painstaking efforts, NIMC has built a robust and credible system for Nigeria’s identity database,” a spokesperson said.
The linkage of NINs and SIMs was mandated by the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, as part of efforts to build a cohesive national database.
Although the process was hampered by long queues and massive crowds amid COVID-19 restrictions, forcing the government to serially extend the deadline for the linkage, the NIMC has said it is committed to its mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the nation’s identity database.
All other forms of identity management, including the Bank Verification Number (BVN), are expected to be linked to the NIN.