Why is Nigeria FAILING in its OBLIGATION to provide a Universal and Seamless National Identity System for its Citizens?

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Let us establish a FACT – In Nigeria, Politicians are generally averse to DATA particularly Data they cannot tamper with. We will not be NAÏVE to not knowing the ISSUE. I believe that the President Buhari administration has an opportunity to create another ETERNAL LEGACY his administration can LEAVE behind for the Good of Nigeria and her National Development.

In 2019, the World Bank and other development partners provided Nigeria with 433 Million Dollars which was budgeted to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to carry out a comprehensive IDENTITY coverage for Nigerians. This was also budgeted to help increase it infrastructural and human capacity to deliver on registering Nigerians.

It will interest you to know that I personally don’t have a National ID card or ID Number as the level of sleaze and corruption that takes place at the Centre in Ikeja is appalling, more appalling is the slow and inefficient process they have adopted in trying to register Nigerians? Why should Nigerians spend endless hours for days on end trying to carry out simple registration for an Identity Card? How many years or months did it take Nigerian Banks to register Nigerians on the BVN platform or for Telco’s to enforce SIM registration?

This same anomaly applies to many other educated and well-exposed Nigerians who can’t reduce themselves to the nonsense the NIMC has done over the years. So we are here without a National ID but we have an International Passport, that’s story for another day.

The Director General of the NIMC mentioned some days ago during a press briefing that over 100 Million Nigerians don’t have a National ID card/number or means of Identification. The DG should be ashamed to have mentioned this anomaly in public. Why should an Agency charged with that sole responsibility come to the media and make such a self-demoting statement about the inefficiency of their agency and the work they are meant to have achieved over the years?

When we think of the broader strokes and impact of not having a valid and authentic National Database for Nigerians, we begin to see why we have disjointed development across the Nigerian landscape. The World Bank has provided Nigeria with the funds it requires – seeing that this is a development finance loan, we expect that the NIMC and Federal Government will truly put this money to use to achieve at least a 90% success rate in terms of national registration – it will be a colossal failure on our part as a nation and a big loss on future revenue Nigeria will use in paying back this loan if we don’t get this National ID registration right at this time.

Effective Data enables POLICIES to be made easily. Effective Data allows for security and intelligence organizations to efficiently monitor whoever wants to become a threat to the Nigerian State and more importantly, it is easier to allocate and prioritize resources when we have a national database we can validate to test development and policy priorities.

 How can the NIMC become remarkably effective in this business of NATIONAL ID REGISTRATION?

  1. First, I think the NIMC should simply STRICTLY regulate the registration of National ID registration. They should outsource the registration, allocation of ID number and cards process to credible finance and technology companies that understand the concept of data privacy and end2end cybersecurity to prevent hacking and stealing – Nigerian Banks, Telecom Companies, Nigerian Card Solutions companies like Verve, Visa and Mastercard are names that comes to mind and selected FinTech companies can be recruited and paid to manage the entire process. We know Politicians will not like this process because it totally alienates their ability to falsify our numbers. So far, the NIMC has made a mess of a simple process that is not meant to be BIG of A DEAL.
  2. Secondly, in line with the thought above, the Nigerian Government should invalidate every form of IDENTITY number it has ever issued and restart the entire process again. Nigerians should reapply for a new ID number and ID card to realign our young, middle aged and old citizens. The new registrations can be allocated as per age bracket of 5 years each (1-5, 5-10, 10-15 etc.) and spread over an extended period. Every Government Secondary School in Nigeria should have a registration point close to where people reside, so it is easier to register. The data we have collected so far are largely falsified and does not even reflect our current realities.
  3. Thirdly, registering for a National ID shouldn’t be free – The Nigerian Government can charge 3-4 dollars (N1500 approximately) to ensure that citizens get electronic ID Cards that can be aligned to our BVN (Bank Verification Number) and driver’s license for easy recognition. Nigerians will be HAPPY to pay for a National ID they can get immediately from their Banks or Telecom Companies. At least, myself and a lot of other busy individuals will be happy to safe ourselves the stress.
  4. The NIMC should introduce Technology – What about Nigerians starting off the registration process in their homes via a Mobile APP developed for the purpose and aligned to our BVN. Nigerians will only need to queue in a public registration point, so their fingerprints are captured, and their registration details validated. This will save further time and ensure the process is fast and efficient. In this time and age, Nigeria should be adopting Technological Solutions to ensure A FAST REGISTRATION PROCESS.
  5. Government can also create a National Database of New born baby given birth to in Nigeria through modern hospitals or traditional birth attendant’s homes – this should be done through the deployment of a New Born Babies Register Software and Tablet that ensures new born babies are entered into the system and allocated a National Identity Number at birth automatically. Government can enact a LAW to ensure compliance at all levels and make it an offence for parents and health centers to fail to comply. This allotted software and tabs should have special serial numbers and codes that ensures when an audit is done to verify the number of births they recorded, it will be done seamlessly based on the unique identified every installed software and app comes with for each health facility whether traditional or modern.
  6. The National Identity Card should become the MOST valid means of IDENTIFICATION and yes, the Police and maybe Military should be deployed randomly after certain number of years when the policy was enacted to ensure strict compliance by way of random questioning of asking citizens to identify themselves. The fear of police or military officers would ensure that Nigerians comply.
  7. Government should also make it impossible to access some services or benefits if you do not have a National IDENTITY Card and Number. International Passports or Voters Card should not be the basis for National Identification. Our National ID card and numbers should be the basis. You should not be able to write Government exams, gain admission to a government educational institution or even take part in any Government funded project if you do not have a National ID number and card.
  8. Lastly, Government must align our National Identity Card project to International Identity Systems across the World where our Unique National ID can be used to profile, identify, and validate who we are anywhere across the World. This will enable Nigerans access seamless opportunities if any forms of identity checks are carried out anywhere in the World. Our International Passport should carry our National ID Numbers on them and that should form the basis for issuance of an International Passport.

What other thoughts do you think our Nigerian Government can adopt in ensuring that Nigeria attains a place where 100% of the citizens can be profiled and identified through a National ID number?

Kindly share your thoughts to elda@nigac.org

#PublicPolicy #PolicyInsights #PolicyDataBank #PolicySolutions #NIMC #NationalIdentity #NIGAC #Think-Tank

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EldaDavid is a Public Policy Practitioner who works and resides in Lagos, Nigeria. EldaDavid is the President-in-Council and Research Lead for the Nigerian Global Affairs Council – A Technology-based and Digital Media-driven Public Policy and Evidence-based Research Think-Tank that always simplifies Government Policy Positions.

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