President Uhuru Kenyatta has extended the Huduma Namba registration deadline to May 25. This, no doubt, is good news to Kenyans who were yet to register as at yesterday.
Early in the week, an emphatic Interior CS Fred Matiang’i announced that 31 million citizens (at least 65 per cent) had registered on the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) to obtain the Huduma Namba.
Matiang’i, who had ruled out an extension, also announced that during this crucial last week for the digital listing programme, registration centres would operate from 6am to 6pm.
By beginning of this week, however, fear that thousands or even millions would not beat deadline was already palpable. Long queues were witnessed in nearly all registration centres, especially in towns.
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The Interior ministry warned those who will not have obtained the Namba for whatever reasons will face challenges securing government services. Matiang’i likened it to Kenya Revenue Authority PIN which is important but which no one is forced to acquire. While we praise the government for progress in digitising records, we urge that in future before such initiatives are undertaken, there should be public sensitisation and adequate time set aside for roll-out. There are millions of Kenyans and aliens who still don’t have any slightest idea why the government wants them to register on NIIMS.
The success of any mass government undertaking, in most cases, is determined by the level of public appreciation. From the onset, there were grey areas, with groups such as the Law Society of Kenya saying Huduma Namba isn’t compulsory and the deadline illegal. The Judiciary also pronounced itself on it. The rush and pronouncements that followed didn’t help. In some places, kits failed and clerks ran out of data capture forms.
Registration of persons is laborious. A system designed to capture data for persons from the age of 6 in a country of nearly 50 million people requires at least six months to properly execute. Undoubtedly, continuous civic education on this key process, if undertaken, will be a game changer.