Nigerians were just recovering from the hardship and economic meltdown inflicted on them by the COVID-19 lockdown, only to be brazing for another second wave of the pandemic and still wondering how to survive the remaining part of the year. The Presidential Task force on COVID-19 were also making efforts, prescribing safety protocols and how best to manage the second wave then came the announcement from the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami telling Nigerians to link their GSM sim cards with their National Identity Number (NIN).
The NIN registration in the middle of the second wave of pandemic is very unpopular, inconsiderate and irresponsible to say the least. And this shows how policies are designed in the country. The approach is always top-bottom, where some people feel they know what the citizens want, so there is no need to consult the masses. In this case, considering the health risk and the pandemic the minister should have consider the people and not issuing threats of blocking GSM sim if the deadline is not met.
Some of the reasons why policies and project fail in Nigeria are as result of the conception and design. The NIN registration should be a continue exercise, where Nigerians can walk into any of the NIMC office and get registered. The ultimatum given by the minister puts panic into to people because nobody wants their sim to be blocked. All COVID-19 safety protocol was thrown into the wind as thousands of peoples were trying to get registered. There are also allegations of NIMC staffs taking the advantage of desperate Nigerians to cash-out big time by demanding for bribes before they will register them.
The reason given by the minister for the NIN registration is very cogent, but the timing is very wrong also. It is true Nigeria is having serious security challenges, and registering sims will be helpful in tracking criminals but the hardship and punishment experienced by the people will make questions like “is it actually worth it?” begin to pop-up. Though the initial deadline given was later extended because it was obvious from the beginning that it cannot be met, the damage has been done. Many Nigerians have already been exposed, and they have been swindled of the hard earned money by some staff in NIMC.
The government may have good intentions for the people when designing policies, but bottom-up approach is key to the success of such policies including projects in the communities. For instance, a community in need of water, instead of a borehole, the government decides to build more classroom blocks. Building classrooms block is very good, it will encourage and increase school enrolment in the community but the need of the people is water. So how can the children attend classes when they have to trek kilometers in search of water, automatically the enrolment will not be achieved.
Before making policies, it is very important to consider how it will impact the people positively and negatively. Policies always have unintended outcomes therefore people should always be at the center of it. A government already having issues of low performance, implementing policies that Nigerians feels it is nothing but a way of punishing them, like telling them that the government does not care. If democracy is the government of the people, then the people should always be at the center of every policy.