Day 11: NIMC Server Collapse – Why are Telecoms, Banks, Custom Not Using vNIN?


It has already been 11 days since the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) servers broke down, and this has paralyzed the activities of the banks, telecom operators, immigration, and other critical agencies of the government. This has also continued to affect business operations across different sectors in the country.

Virtal National Identity Numbers (vNIN)
Virtal National Identity Numbers (vNIN)

Most of the telecom subscribers have continued to lament their inability to retrieve lost SIM cards or get new ones due to the non-accessibility of the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC portal.

The story is not different from the experience of bank customers who also complained of the inability of their various banks to link their Biometric Verification Number, BVN with their National Identity Numbers,  NINs.

Background Story

Recall that thousands of telecommunication subscribers nationwide seeking to retrieve their lost Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards or acquire new lines temporarily have been left stranded, following a technical glitch in the National Identity Management Commission portal that has grounded SIM-related services.

The breakdown of the backbone infrastructure which occurred 11 days ago, also affect most government agencies like immigration, Police, Road Safety and telecom operators among other critical public institutions.

The NIMC had on Monday insisted that its server was intact. The Nigerian organization that operates the country's national identity management systems debunked report that attributed the glitch to the collapse of its server but attributed the collapse to a government agency in charge of ICT services."

The Head Corporate Communications of NIMC, Mr Kayode Adegoke, in a chat said: "the problem of server breakdown as reported in the media does not affect NIMC, rather, a government service provider that embarked on maintenance of its infrastructure, which has affected most government agencies that rely on it for the provision of IT service."

'A Technical Problem With the Hosting Service Platform of Galaxy Backbone Limited'

However, it was learnt that the hitch affecting the NIMC’s NIN portal was caused by a technical problem with the Hosting Service Platform of Galaxy Backbone Limited, a Federal Government agency that provides Information and Communications Technology services.

Among other services, Galaxy Backbone is also mandated to manage the Internet facilities and websites of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.

But many MDAs were also affected by the platform service breakdown, according to a reliable source.

“A lot of Ministries Departments and Agencies are affected but we are gradually bringing them up. I don’t have the full information of the ones that have been restored but a number of them will be restored,” The PUNCH quoted a top government official who is close to the situation, as saying.

Agencies such as Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Police Force, and the Federal Road Safety Commission were among the government agencies affected, according to officials.

What Galaxy Backbone Limited Said

In a statement from the Twitter page of Galaxy Backbone, it was disclosed that the agency was having some technical challenges with its Hosting Service Platform, which affected services the agency hosts for some of its customers.

The statement read in part, “Galaxy Backbone is currently experiencing some technical challenges with its Hosting Service Platform which has affected services being hosted for some of our customers.”

The Galaxy Backbone said its team was working to ensure that the service got fully restored, adding that it regretted the service disruptions.

The statement further read, “This incident has been assigned the highest priority classification, and Galaxy Backbone’s technical teams, supported by its Original Equipment Manufacturers partners, are currently working round the clock, with good progress being recorded, to ensure that affected services are restored as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, GBB has continued to reach out to all its customers and will continue to do so to provide the necessary updates needed, until all affected services are fully restored.

“The Management of Galaxy Backbone regrets all services disruptions and inconveniences being experienced by our numerous customers.”

What NIMC is Saying

As the problem lingered on, it was gathered that the NIMC officials held a meeting with telcos and other stakeholders over the development. It was learnt that NIMC advised telcos to temporarily revert to the vNIN platform until it is able to sort out its technical difficulties.

The spokesperson for NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, in a report said that the commission own two platforms, querying why the telcos had refused to migrate to the alternative platform the agency had provided.

He said, “We have two platforms. Ask the telcos why they are not using the other platform. The verification process has been made easy with tokenisation and the virtual NIN can be generated via the NIMC mobile app.”

He added that people without digital mobile devices and those who have lost their SIM can also generate a virtual NIN via USSD code.

“It (tokenisation) is working perfectly fine now. We have consistently offered top-notch identity services to Nigerians and legal residents, and we will continue to do so,” Adegoke said.

NIMC alternative platform very slow, fraught with challenges, says Telcos

However, Gbolahan Awonuga, head of operations, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), told TheCable on Thursday that "the tokenisation system for verifying subscribers had been very slow, and fraught with challenges."

“It’s a slow process. There are some challenges. Some areas, it will work and in some, it doesn’t. The number of verification that’s supposed to be done is not what we are achieving,” Awonuga said.

How It Is Going

Few days after the offer was made, major service providers like banks and telecom operators were yet to take the advantage of the virtual NIN offered by NIMC as an alternative platform for NIN verification.

Some bank customers in several parts of the country who went for different transactions were not successful after fruitless attempts to verify their NINs, according to the Vanguard

A bank customer, Aliyu Mohammed, who spoke to the newspaper pleaded with government to intervene in the matter.  According to him,  ‘‘for  banks, telecoms operators to have  turned their customers back for nine days due to the non-accessibility of NIMC portal speaks volume of  the inefficiency in the system.’’

The same thing goes for some telecom operators, who can’t even retrieve customers’ lost SIM or register new SIM cards without access to the NIMC servers.

How soon will normalcy return?

UPDATE: NIMC Verification Portal Fully Restored

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