What value does the national ID card have for citizens? How can citizen-government engagement be improved with a citizens’ database and how does the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) seek to manage the challenge of creating a functional database that meets the needs of 21st-century citizens in a modern state? Director-General of the NIMC, Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, recently addressed these questions in an interaction with the media. Aziz asserted that Nigeria stands on the threshold of a new epoch in its identity management history and affirmed that the NIMC was focused on delivering a world-class identity ecosystem for Nigeria.
Why is NIMC pushing the National Identification Number now more than the ID card?
The focus of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for the next three to five years is on the National Identification Number and not on the National e-ID Card. We want to make the NIN understandable, acceptable, applicable and appreciated by Nigerians, as an important and intrinsic aspect of their entire life, rather than a physical card, which can be discarded while the number is for life.
Before now, we were focused on the Card but after the country went into recession, we decided to emulate other developed countries like the United States, which issues the Social Security Number, the United Kingdom, with the National Insurance Number; and India where they recently enrolled about 1.4 billion people and issued them the Aadhaar. In all these cases, the emphasis – or perhaps I should say the only thing in focus – is the number.
However, this does not mean that we won’t issue the cards, because it is there in our Act (NIMC Act, 2007) that we should issue a general multipurpose card to all registered Nigerians; therefore, we recently gazetted some regulations that will ensure participation of private partners in the Card personalisation services in order to handle the printing of the outstanding cards; but funding is a challenge.
Also, the intention of the Commission is to develop the identity ecosystem with all data collecting government agencies and licensed private agencies, in order to capture additional 50 million records by the end of 2018.
“The NIN also grants citizens certain rights as regards financial access, credit facilities, etc….the NIN facilitates interactions between citizens, the Government and private sector institutions thereby promoting socio-economic and political development.”
What advantages, if any, does having the NIN confer on a citizen?
The NIN bequeaths citizens with a lot of privileges and benefits. And like most modern economies where the national identity number is a national token that gives citizens access to government social interventions, the NIN also grants citizens certain rights as regards financial access, credit facilities etc. Mind you, in the case of the US, UK and India I mentioned earlier, like other advanced economies, a citizen can’t access any social services such as health, insurance and so on, without the requisite social security number; the number is indispensable.
So, here in Nigeria, the NIN facilitates interactions between citizens, the Government and private sector institutions thereby promoting socio-economic and political development.
Since citizens enjoy a “one-person-one-identity” for life, the NIN, therefore, enhances citizens’ participation in the political process, enables citizens to exercise their rights, facilitates management of subsidies and safety net payments, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) management and facilitates service delivery in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
It also enhances the work of law enforcement agencies, e.g. public safety, policing, national security and border protection, and eliminates ghost and multiple identities, etc.
It also enhances the ability of citizens to assert their identity, have access to credit from financial institutions, protects citizens from identity theft – an antidote to identity theft driven frauds which expands access to other financial services including insurance.
The NIN enhances e-commerce by providing a means of payment as it is a tool for non-repudiation and security for financial transactions. It facilitates financial inclusion, hence the advancement of a cashless economy.
In security circles, the NIN is an important tool for the fight against corruption and terrorism; and finally helps launder Nigeria’s image abroad, amongst many others. So you can see that the NIN is multifaceted in utility.
“[With NIN] citizens enjoy a “one-person-one-identity” for life, [and] enhances citizens’ participation in the political process, enables citizens to exercise their rights, facilitates management of subsidies and safety net payments….”
What role does the NIN play in Nigeria’s planning and security situation?
With the NIN, all citizens enjoy a “one-person-one-identity”, which allows the government to search for an individual and all of his/her details either for planning and or for security purposes.
The government can query the database to ascertain how many unemployed individuals are in the system at Federal and State levels, the genders of those individuals, their occupation, skillset, age bracket, location, etc. This will assist in planning for resources and benefits administration. As you know President Muhammadu Buhari has just signed the 2018 Appropriation Bill into Law; the NIN is a very useful and powerful instrument in assisting the governments – at all levels – budget appropriately for the citizenry, in the proper and effective allocation and spread of scarce resources.
On security, the relevant government security agencies are part of the National Identity Management System (NIMS) project from inception and have access to query the system using biometrics, etc to confirm individual’s identity.
Therefore, as soon as the National Identity Database is fully populated, all federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as the private sectors, can access the verification platform of the Commission, for different purposes, depending on the level of access granted to them by NIMC.
“With the recent gazette and publication of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number (NIN) Regulations, 2017, the Commission will on a later date, begin enforcement of the NIN for these transactions and more.”
With the national elections of 2019 almost here, how useful will the NIN be for INEC and the electorate?
As I said earlier, we are still harmonizing data with all data collecting government agencies, as well as concluding plans to start the ecosystem approach which will see all government agencies and some licensed private sector companies collecting data and sending to the NIMC as the sole repository of biometric data.
This is expected to shoot up the record in the NIMC database by a huge percentage. Once we have a good figure, then INEC can leverage on the NIMC Database for electoral purposes.
The plans already on the ground for this year include accelerated deployment of enrolment Centres in all Local Government Areas across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory and enrolment of all Nigerians and legal residents including children. Perhaps you know that children from birth can now be enrolled; this is a point that Nigerians should be aware of, especially with several babies being born across the country daily. Parents will do well to avail themselves for the benefit of the new-borns of this window of enrolment opportunity that is now uniquely available.
What are those social services that the NIN has become mandatory for?
Pursuant to section 27 (1) and (2) of the NIMC Act, 2007, transactions including, applications for, and issuance of an International Passport; opening of individual and/or group bank accounts, all consumer credits; purchase of insurance policies; the purchase, transfer and registration of land by any individual; National Health Insurance Scheme, such transactions that have social security implications, registration of voters, payment of taxes, and pensions, etc., will be done with the NIN.
With the recent Gazette and publication of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number (NIN) Regulations, 2017, the Commission will on a later date, begin enforcement of the NIN for these transactions and more. Our advice to Nigerians is: do not wait till you have to, go out there and be enrolled before you have to through enforcement because then you will have to experience crowds and delays.