If there is one trait the Nigerian government shares across federal, state and local government levels, it is their unrealistic policies. Last year the Federal government closed the borders because they wanted to ‘stimulate’ the local rice economy by removing foreign competition. All that yielded was a price hike, substandard local rice and more smuggling. Following in their example, the Lagos state government enforced a surprise ban on micro-transportation like Okadas and Keke-Napeps, the latter being something the state government itself introduced as an alternative to Okadas for short distances. The government is yet to provide any satisfactory alternatives and simply expects citizens to ‘adjust’. If that wasn’t terrible enough, Dr Isa Pantami, the minister for communications and digital economy feels he needs to add some extra hardship into the fray by introducing new restrictions to our telecommunications industry and SIM cards in particular.
While he was inaugurating the new governing board of the Nigerian Communications Commissions, he announced that going forward, old and new subscribers to mobile networks would have to ‘justify’ why they needed a new line.
Bear in mind that already, every Nigerian with a mobile number is required by law to register their numbers to themselves through a thorough bio-metric process, and the process has proven fairly efficient in documenting citizens. But Dr. Pantami feels that isn’t enough and subscribers should be limited to a certain amount of mobile numbers and be required by law to explain why they need new SIM cards.
All of this new bureaucracy is part of the government’s attempt to force all citizens to get a National Identity Number, after several failed attempts like linking Jamb registration to NIN’s and linking International passorts to NIN when the average Nigerian cannot even afford a passport (its more expensive than a month’s minimum wage).
SIM cards seems their next new frontier. Now granted, this could have seriously positive effects, especially in curbing fraud and terrorism, but knowing Nigeria, it will be implemented so poorly it would end up excluding the people who need it most. As with everything else in Nigeria.
Can Nigeria focus on one infrastructural change at a time and get right, rather than this mass performance of activity that leads us nowhere.