The Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) MOBILE App is supposed to ease access to some of the commission’s services, but as DAMOLA KOLA-DARE found out, it is not yet Uhuru for those wishing to benefit from the App.

The Federal Government had declared on December 15, 2020, that after December 30, 2020, all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies will be deactivated. The government also ordered the suspension of the registration of new SIM cards by all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country. It later extended the December 30, 2020 deadline following widespread opposition against the earlier announcement and gave three weeks extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020, to January 19, 2021. It also gave six-week extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020, to February 9, 2021.

Against this backdrop, Nigerians have been trooping to NIMC offices nationwide to beat the deadline for NIN registration and linking. With the deadly Coronavirus pandemic still hanging on the nation like a pall of darkness, citizens have thrown caution to the wind at registration centres with scant regard for COVID-19 protocols. Thus, Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora stated on Monday, January 11, that the Federal Government may suspend the ongoing National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment. He noted that the exercise may be suspended because of the risk of contracting COVID-19, insisting that the government must ensure Nigerians are always protected.

He also urged the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to re-order the enrolment process to a large gathering at its centres nationwide.

The first version of the App (1.90), was released on Google Playstore on July 15, 2019. Reviews dating back to August 2019 reflected unresolved issues, but as of August 15, 2020, there were already more than 10,000 downloads. On the app’s description, it was stated that another update for version 2.0 was   to be released in August 2020.

However, following complaints about the App, on  August 17, 2020, the NIMC released an official press statement saying: “Our attention has been drawn to several complaints about the NIMC Mobile App. We will like Nigerians to be aware that the App is a novel innovation by the Commission, but it is yet to be officially approved for public consumption.

“The App is still in the test environment and currently being fine-tuned to give users the best experience with adequate privacy and data security safeguards. Once the test stage is concluded, the Commission will issue a formal statement regarding its usage by our esteemed NIN registered persons.

“In the same vein, we want to assure Nigerians of the security of their data. The data is securely encrypted both in transit and at rest,” the statement added.

However, on December 31, 2020, the Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Femi Adeluyi, in a statement, said: “The Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has approved the development and release of an improved National Identity Number (NIN) slip and a Mobile App.

This is part of the Federal Government’s policy to improve the process  of obtaining NIN and linking it to SIM, which was sent to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for implementation.”

He continued: “The highly anticipated Mobile Web Service (MWS) Application, called the NIMC Mobile App, and the improved National Identification Number (NIN) Slip are now available for public use. The App provides a secure channel for all Nigerians and legal residents to easily verify and authenticate their identities on-the-go using smartphones.

It also enables them to link the NIN to their phone numbers. The development of the App and other tools to support the National Identity Number (NIN) process align with the National Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria.

“The App offers a built-in harmonization process that allows for its use across other government services including the NCC, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Federal Road Safety Commission and National Health Insurance Scheme, to mention a few.”

The NCC informed that the app has been upgraded and it now includes a module for linking mobile numbers with NIN. On January 3, the NIMC Mobile App returned for download on app stores for both Android and iOS phones.

The different telcos have also provided means to ease the linking — either through online forms or USSD codes.

Subscribers react

Following the announcement that the App had been upgraded, subscribers still experience glitches using it. This reporter also discovered it is still on the blink despite claims of an upgrade. From generating One Time Password (OTP) to the poor network from NIMC server, error in submission and identification among others. According to Peter Frank, the app is supposed to generate NIN and get people registered instead of going through a pretty difficult process of going to crowded registration centres.

Also expressing his angst, Innocent Azubuko said: “It is so sad to say that though this app was updated two weeks ago, the common bug many persons have been experiencing here, “Oops! Your submission returned an error” have not been resolved. Work should be done on the app capturing new users data properly.”

For Gilbert Godiva, the App developers should fine-tune it.

“This app is a complete waste of data, it does not work in any way. After entering my NIN, it keeps saying “your submission returned an error.” The NIN presented returned an error with the message “please check the number and try again.” Please the developers should work on this fast because the government has also given an ultimatum,” he said.

Another subscriber, Taiwo Adeyemi, said: “I input the correct details, but it displayed a wrong passport. Registration is a bit difficult due to multiple error code, it takes me days to successfully log in. I think the developer should make it possible to change our passport because most people are facing the same issues.”

For Chuks Okpara the app is an embarrassment to the government.

He said: “I don’t understand why this app is misbehaving. I entered my NIN no, it showed my phone number, which I still have access to, and asked to send an OTP message. Then an error message appeared. Developers need to work on this as this is more like an embarrassment to the government that we cannot set up apps. It is very appalling.”

Aliyu Mustapha, while registering his grouse, said: “Here we are again raising unnecessary issues with version 2.0 I input my NIN, my Mobile Number was found, but after choosing ‘I still use this mobile number’ I get an error message saying ‘Oops your submission returned an error. Error: Request failed with status code 401.’ We can’t deploy a simple application that works successfully in 2021 despite spending billions of taxpayers money in the project.”

On his part, Ologbon Sunny lauded the government for the idea behind the App but wants the various bugs fixed.

“Though I appreciate the intention of the FG, they should have tested it to be sure that it’s functioning well before launching it. After typing my NIN, it displayed my phone number which I agreed and that’s the much I could do. The developer should revisit the app and fix the bug,” he said.

According to Owoseni Oluwaseun, the app has not been accessible since he upgraded it.

He said: “Something needs to be done about it because I have been using it before now. I thought it should be more useful and with better features after upgrading it, but the reverse is the case here. A lot still needs to be done about it.”

David Ajayi, another subscriber while lauding the app initiative, said: “I appreciate the fact that the NIMC MWS app has been created but the app isn’t working. We are talking about the FG here, if the developers cannot launch an app to function, it tells a lot about the nation’s digitalisation strength.”

For Nsikak Usoro, the developers should have planned for how to manage huge traffic on the app.

“User ID & OTP was to come as SMS in 10mins at initial registration, 30mins later the SMS was not delivered. I couldn’t proceed beyond that stage. For a country of about 250m people, the app designers should have anticipated huge traffic and factor in how to manage such at the design stage,” he said.

Chima Nwabeke said: “I love the concept of having a mobile app to help us reduce the stress of going to those centres for verification. But I’m seriously having issues with the app. It has been showing 401 errors for some time now. Then it allowed me little access to put in my User ID and OTP number. After that, it starts showing me error 401 again. This is not acceptable for a great nation as Nigeria. We can do better.”

The President, National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo decried the mobile app for being complicated, noting that it is not working very well. He urged the NIMC to reconfigure app for seamless operation.

He said: “The App is not working very well. It is complicated. It should be reconfigured. Overcrowding at NIMC offices will make COVID-19 spread. Everyone is at risk of contracting the virus. The Minister of Communications (Pantami) should not be the vector spreading the virus. We are asking for six months extension.”

A Lagos-based tech expert, Mr. Damilola Adegunwa, said the App developers should address scaling issues on it. He noted that the bugs on the app meant it was not built to cater for millions of subscribers in the country. He urged for rebuilding and addition of more resources to strengthen the app.

A former President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Olusola Teniola,

said any app rolled out for public use should have been thoroughly tested, hence, the NIMC should have tested it for effectiveness to avoid the bugs and issues experienced by subscribers. He urged the government to look into the issue and also called for an extension in the deadline for NIN linking.

The General Manager, Corporate Affairs of NIMC, Mr Kayode Adegoke said: “The app is working perfectly. There are no issues at present. Then, those having issues had downloaded it before it was launched. Nevertheless, they should uninstall and reinstall the app. The issues will be corrected.”

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