A Federal High Court in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria has ordered that the deadline for the registration of National Identity Number (NIN) be extended by another two months.
Justice Maureen Onyetenu gave the order on Tuesday after hearing a suit filed by Monday Ubani, a human rights lawyer.
Ubani had, in Dec. 2020, joined the Nigerian Government, Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, in a suit over the initial two-week deadline for NIN registration, set for Dec. 16 to Dec. 30, 2020.
He argued that the initial deadline issued by the government to telecommunication operators for NIN registration would infringe on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and expose them to COVID-19, according to a report by The Cable.
The counsel also argued that the ultimatum given to telecommunications operators by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to block all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards that were not registered with NIN, was grossly inadequate.
“This directive will not only work severe hardship but will likely infringe on the fundamental rights of the Applicant (and millions of other Nigerians) to freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as violate section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which prohibits the compulsory acquisition of right or interest over the moveable property,” he said.
Afterwards, Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy gave an eight-week extension for Nigerians to enrol for their NIN, slated for April 6.
But on Tuesday, Ubani again contended the deadline given by the 1st, 3rd and 4th respondents to over 200 million Nigerians, considering that the risks of a rush may increase the chances of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Tuesday’s ruling, however, granted all Ubani’s prayers and ordered a two-month extension effective from March 23.
On Dec. 11, 2020, the Nigerian Government through the Ministry of Digital Economy directed telecommunications companies to block SIM cards not synchronised with NIN by Dec. 30, a move many Nigerians had frowned at.
The ministry argued it was in the best interest of all to have their lines linked to the NIN to make electronic transactions more secure and curb crime, as insecurity continues to grip the West African country.
But rights groups said the policy was an aberration of section 39 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution that hinges on fundamental rights to freedom of expression of Nigerian citizens.
Millions of people will lose telecoms services with the ICT sector which contributes greatly to the country’s GDP being the worst hit, activists say.
Retracing its steps following public backlash, the government extended the deadline for the provision of NIN till Jan. 19 and February 9, 2021, for those without NIN, and now April 6.