Daily Law Tips (Tip 720) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction:
Following the recent federal government directive to cut-off mobile phone numbers that are without National Identification Numbers, the National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] has come to limelight. National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] is the federal government agency created for the maintenance of a National Identity Database, the registration of individuals and the issuance of general Multi-purpose Identity Cards.

There are certain persons in Nigeria that are exempted from registration for National Identification Number. Such exempted persons are free to live in Nigeria, transact businesses, own and use phone numbers and bank accounts without a National Identification Number. This work will reveals the persons exempted from National Identification Number (NIN) registration.

Exemption from National Identity Number:
Where ever there is a law, there is an exemption. The 2007 federal law (National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] Act) created the National Identity Management Commission and authorized it to manage the National Identity Database, National Identification Numbers, the compulsory registration of persons in Nigeria and the prohibition of certain business transactions without a National Identification Number (NIN). That same law, expressly stated certain persons that should register for a National Identification Number and consequently, exempted some persons from the registration and use of a National Identification Number.

To further implement the National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] Act), the National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] made regulations to guide its processes and procedures, including the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations 2015 and the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017. The National Identification Number Regulations 2015, expressly listed persons that are exempted from the registration and use of a National Identification Number. It also stated that the exempted persons are expected to transact and carry on business in Nigeria with a National Identification Number.

In the words of the National Identification Number Regulations 2015;
“For the avoidance of doubt, the following persons are excluded from the application of the Act and therefore shall not be required to produce a NIN for the Specified Transactions:
1. A foreigner who is validly transiting through Nigeria or is employed in and or resides in Nigeria for less than twenty four (24) consecutive calendar months;
2. 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; and
3. Any other person who is not a citizen of Nigerian or a foreigner authorised under the Immigrations Act to lawfully reside in Nigeria. “


Hence, a foreigner can live, work and transact businesses (as well as own and use mobile phone numbers and bank accounts) in Nigeria without the need to register and obtain 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). A foreigner that intends to stay in Nigeria for 2 years or more (including a permanent resident) needs to obtain a National Identification Number. Also, members of foreign missions, their 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. Lastly, there are foreigners that may be specially allowed by the Immigration Act (a federal law on immigration) to reside in Nigeria, such persons are exempted from registering for a National Identification Number.

Conclusion:

All Nigerians (including Children) whether in Nigeria or outside Nigeria, are mandated by law to register for a National Identification Number. Foreigners in Nigeria are also mandated to register for National Identification Number but some foreigners are exempted. Foreigners (including foreign missions) that will stay for less than 2 years do not need to obtain National Identification Number while foreigners and members of foreign missions that will stay for 2 years or more must obtain and use National Identification Number. 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.

A Nigerian that works for a foreign mission, NGO or international agency in Nigeria or outside Nigeria must have a National Identification Number. A Nigerian that works or lives in any part of Nigeria or the world must have a National Identification Number. A Nigerian that works in any government office or occupies a political office, no matter how highly placed, must have a National Identification Number. A Nigerian that has dual citizenship (has a foreign passport) must have a National Identification Number, so far as he/she still has a Nigerian passport and has not denounced Nigeria. No Nigerian is exempted from registering and obtaining a National Identification Number. It is mandatory to register and obtain a National Identification Number.

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) accessed 20 January 2021.

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