Daily Law Tips (Tip 719) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction:
Recently, the federal government of Nigeria ordered some members of foreign mission in Nigeria to obtain National Identification Numbers. This has led the National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] to establish an enrolment center in the premises of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to register foreign diplomats and issue them National Identification Numbers. According to a 2007 federal law (the National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] Act), without a National Identification Number (NIN) a person in Nigeria will not be able to operate a bank account, own a phone number, transact/rent a landed property or have access to any public service.

Looking at the federal law that created National Identification Numbers as well as regulations made by the National Identity Management Commission [NIMC], it is clear that some foreign missions, diplomats, their staff and families are exempted from having a National Identification Number. They are among the few persons in Nigeria that are by law allowed to live and transact in Nigeria without a National Identification Number. This work focuses on the exemption of certain members of the foreign missions in Nigeria from the registration and use of National Identification Numbers.

Exemption of Some Members of Foreign Missions:
Generally, persons in Nigeria are mandated to obtain National Identification Numbers. This includes Nigerians and foreigners in Nigeria. However, there are some exemption to this. Some persons are exempted from obtaining and using a National Identification Number. By the federal law and regulations made under it, certain members of foreign missions are exempted from obtaining National Identification Numbers.

Diplomats, their staff and families are exempted from obtaining National Identification Numbers, so far as they are not staying in Nigeria for 2 years or more. Specifically, this includes, “Members of the diplomatic staff and of the administrative and technical staff of the diplomatic mission of any foreign state, and Consular Officers and Consular Employees, together with members of their families forming part of their respective households, as these expressions are defined for the purposes of Diplomatic Privileges (Vienna Convention) Act and the Consular Relations Act, who are present in Nigeria, provided that such persons are not citizens of Nigeria or permanent residents in Nigeria”.

Conclusion:
National Identification Number is a creation of a federal law in Nigeria. It binds Nigerians and foreigners, including diplomats and other members of foreign missions in Nigeria. A foreigner can live, work and transact business (as well as own and use mobile phone numbers and bank accounts) in Nigeria without a National Identification Number, so far as the foreigner is not staying in Nigeria for more than 24 unbroken months (ie, 2 years without leaving Nigeria). Members of foreign missions, the staff and families in Nigeria (so far as they are not Nigerians) do not need to register for a National Identification Number, in as much as they are not staying for 2 years or more in Nigeria. Refusing to have a National Identification Number is a criminal offence, punishable with fine of not less than N100,000 or imprisonment for term of not less than 6 months or both.

My authorities, are:
1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 37, 38, 39, 44, 45, 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
2. Sections 1, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33 and 34 of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act, 2007.
3. Regulations 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the Mandatory Use of the NIN Regulations 2015.
4. Regulations 1, 4, 7, 8 and 9 of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017.
5. Onyekachi Umah, “No National Identification Number (NIN), No Land Transaction/Tenancy” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 January 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/no-national-identification-number-nin-no-land-transaction-tenancy/> accessed 20 January 2021.
6. Emma Okonji, “FG: NIN Mandatory for Foreign Diplomats” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 January 2021) <https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2021/01/18/fg-nin-mandatory-for-foreign-diplomats/> accessed 20 January 2021.
7. Oge Udegbunam, “NIN: Nigerian govt approves enrollment centre for diplomats” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 17 January 2021) <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/436958-nin-nigerian-govt-approves-enrollment-centre-for-diplomats.html> accessed 20 January 2021.

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