Chicason Group CIO | MAN must champion digitization of manufacturing sector

Manufactures Association of Nigeria (MAN), the umbrella body of manufacturers  in the country, should lead the charge to influence policies that drive digital evolution of the manufacturing sector, Mr Steve Obiago, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Chicason Group, an indigenous conglomerate has told Technology Times.

According to him, digital transformation in the Nigerian manufacturing industry is still at its infancy when compared to the evolution witnessed in the banking sector within the last decade.

Obiago, who has had over 23 years experience in the banking industry before joining the Nigerian manufacturing group says the success achieved in the digital transformation in the banking sector can be replicated in the manufacturing sector.

But that is if MAN and relevant stakeholders care to take a cue from the digital policies and allied initiative in the banking sector championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian banking regulator, the Chicason Group CIO believes.

”A lot of manufacturing  companies in the country are still largely analogue. I will urge MAN to rise to the occasion in ensuring that manufacturing industries are fully automated in order to drive efficiency in that sector”, Obiagu told Technology Times in an exclusive interview at the company’s corporate headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos.

He reckons that ”the success recorded in the digital evolution in the banking sector today is not rocket science, it is because CBN has consciously come up with a policy to encourage digital banking and I believe such can be replicated in any sector of our economy if the regulators and stakeholders  come up with good initiative and policies.”

Mr Steve Obiago, Chief Information Officer Chicason Group speaking exclusively with Technology Times at the company’s office in Ikoyi, Lagos.

According to him, aside from the policies and initiative, the CIO of any manufacturing company should come up with lofty ideas in digitizing and automating the processes in his company in line with global best practices.

”When I came into Chicason Group, my strategy was to see the group comes on a global scale as a fully automated manufacturing entity. Chicason Group is a large conglomerate with over 23 subsidiaries operating in eight countries. So, I had the vision as the CIO to automate all our processes by partnering with very reputable Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and we have been able to establish digitization in most of our factories, although it took sometimes. But we have been able to achieve more”, Obiago says.

He also highlights some of the challenges faced by many manufacturing industries going digital such as the ”the prohibitive cost of IT gadget (software and hardware)” and he believes that the only way out is “for  government to step in and ensure that these two components which are the major areas is affordable for the manufacturing industries.”

According to the CIO, ”the reason why  the manufacturing industry  are still analogue is that when they look at the cost of purchasing IT gadget, they get discouraged. But if you ask ourselves why the banking sector has been ahead of other sector in digitization, the simple reason is that  the Federal Government through CBN has subsidized the cost of IT gadget. Such also could be done for the manufacturing industry”, he adds.

”They also need to know that if you don’t automate you die and the only message I preach to any manufacturing CIO I meet is to automate their processes, because when you automate you see efficiency, you see the loopholes and leakages. You cant be analogue and survive in this digital age.

“Take for example,we adopt use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for regular interactions by committees and boards to reduce costs associated with sitting allowances and meetings. With  the automation process in my company, we been able to save over N50 million per quarter on travel allowance. We now use skype for business for our meetings and that is just only one aspect. I can’t quantity how much we have saved overall since we fully adopted technology to drive our business”, the Chicason Group CIO tells Technology Times.

“With the automation process in my company, we been able to save over N50 million per quarter on travel allowance”, Mr Obiago says to underscore the benefits of adopting technology in the new digital age

Speaking further  with Technology Times Obiagu also hinted that his company is pursuing an ambitious plan to build Abuja, the nation’s  seat of power, into a smart city in line with fast-growing trend across the world.

”Our smart city project is being done in the Abuja metropolis. We are still in the early stages.However, we also have a mass housing project that has kicked off and its being managed by Rock of Ages, one of our subsidiaries. And talking about the smart city initiative, we are still in talks with some of our partners and once that is concluded, we are going to fully kick off in Abuja. I can assure you that once we fully roll out, it will become the talk of the town”, Obiago says.

The Chicason Group’s goal of building the smart city is to improve quality of life by using urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs, Obiago also told Technology Times about the ambitious plan by the Nigerian manufacturing conglomerate.

Mr Obigo to Manufacturing industry CIOs: You cant be analogue and survive in this digital age.

”And one of the major diferentiator of our smart city project is affordability. Many people believe that smart city is only for the elite but the truth about it is that smart city is just a concept. It doesn’t have to be elitist. So the strategy of Chicason  Group is that the smart city will be affordable by all and every single Nigeria gets the impact of what ICT-oriented city looks like”, Obiago says.

NIGERIA | NIMC CEO dissects how to milk National ID ‘cash cow’

Engineer Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) explains the dynamics and roadmap of National ID programme in Nigeria in this exclusive interview with Technology Times.

Interview and photogaphy by Shina Badaru


Engineer Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen holding a National ID card during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja

Engineer Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen holding a National ID card during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja


Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

One Nigerian, one ID…Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Technology Times: If we have to look at your mandate to deliver a world-class identity solution for Nigeria; so far, how will you say you have fared on your watch since becoming the DG of NIMC?

Engineer Aliyu Aziz: My name is Aliyu Aziz. I am the current DG of NIMC and I took over on November 23rd 2015. So we are exactly one year now and at the time that I took over, we have built the backend and then we enrolled seven million Nigerians.

Right now, we have about 13.8 million Nigerians that we have registered and issued national identification numbers. However, we only issued about one million cards and activated about half a million.

So, I can say that in terms of national identification number, that we are doing very well, but in terms of the card, we are yet to achieve the optimum.

“Right now, we have about 13.8 million Nigerians that we have registered and issued national identification numbers. However, we only issued about one million cards and activated about half a million.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja

Technology Times: What has been the challenge to the issuance of cards?

Aziz: We have the capacity to issue cards but as you know, we are issuing a general multi-purpose card. So it is not the same with ordinary ATM card because it has about 13 applets. It has e-ID applet, which has private and public key infrastructure in it and a travel applet. Therefore, it is like 80 kilobytes card compared to an ordinary ATM card, which is 4 kilobytes. So it is like 20 times that of the ATM card.

The processes that we carry out to print the card is not the same with the ordinary card. The previous card that we had was only a barcode card. But as you know, the technology has passed that of the barcode technology. The challenge is that the security of the chip has changed. The operating system has changed. Therefore, we had a pause to upgrade the security.

Right now, we have done that upgrade and we will soon commence the printing of the card. But before then, again there is also challenge of funding. But we still have some more cards to print and also we have many vendors that can print similar cards.

We have about five vendors in Lagos that have the technology to print the cards but again we need some form of funding to pay for the barcodes. And also, we commenced the printing of the card after issuing the National Identification Number (NIN) for about two years.

We commenced the NIN in 2012, but the card only started around 2014. So, this two-year card, we still have it until when we get the right funding. Then we can print all the barcodes. But we concentrate more on the national identification number because actually, the national identification number is your identity similar to your social security number. Your ID card is only a token. So we believe that very soon we will grow over these challenges.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Milking the cash cow…Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.


Technology Times: You have adopted usage of biometric features for the enrollment of Nigerians, which is considered more or less international best practice with respect to identity management. For the benefit of everyday Nigerian, how much of a unique identification does the National Identification Number (NIN) provide?

Aziz: We had a deliberate policy and processes in the sense that unlike other systems before, we have not gone out to start capturing identities under the tree. When we started from state offices, then we moved to local government offices and moved to other special centres.

What we have been trying to do is to make sure that whatever we do is auditable; that we can audit the process. If a person goes into an enrollment centre, from that point up to the time that his biometrics are captured, is a form of a process that we can audit.

When you take the biometrics of an individual, it means that is what the person has and it is presumed that every individual has unique biometrics.

Every individual has unique fingerprints and also you have unique facial features and also unique iris. So far those are the ones that we are working with. So if we take this information, within 76 hours, we send this information to the backend. At the backend, then we have a process of de-duplication employing automated biometric identification system. So that is the system that helps us to de-duplicate or remove duplicates because it would then compare your identity with any other identity that is in the database.

By the time that we get to the last person in Nigeria, then it will compare the person’s identity with all the other identities in the database before it can then generate a unique number and this number is uniquely generated. It is a randomly generated number of 11 digits. So it is not a number that says you are from this state, your tribe or your religion. The number is just randomly generated and it is unique for that person and it will never be used for any other person again. So that number makes it very unique that even when the number is not valid for transaction, we need to authenticate. We need to then connect to the back-end and then ask that ‘have you issued this number?’ The first basic question. And after that, we check ‘who owns this number?’ ‘Is it so and so person that owns this number or whose picture that has this number?’ Then, we will be given this type of information and we will then have verified that the person with the photo is the one that has this number.

So, the number is unique and that is what NIMC is all about: to give this uniqueness. If we do anything else, then our system will not have the importance that it has. Right now, if you are filling the form for any visa, they will ask you for the national identification number and it is not that NIMC asked them to go there. But they found out that the NIMC process is unique and the identities are unique. So, they will be able to check that identity and in future, they may just ask you for only that number and crosscheck and give you the visa without asking you too many questions. So, because identity is not only within the shores of Nigeria, we have stakeholders all over the world.

“By the time that we get to the last person in Nigeria, then it will compare the person’s identity with all the other identities in the database before it can then generate a unique number and this number is uniquely generated. It is a randomly generated number of 11 digits. So it is not a number that says you are from this state, your tribe or your religion. The number is just randomly generated and it is unique for that person and it will never be used for any other person again.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Technology Times: If you have to give an indication as the kind of financial resource that will be required to meet these goals and objectives that you have set for yourselves within the short, medium and the long term, what will you be looking at?

Aziz: Recently, we had a round table discussion with all the other agencies and the objective was to look at the identity ecosystem in Nigeria that we have been spending so much money and duplicating what we do across to the agencies.

The whole idea is to discuss about the presidential directive that we should harmonise and integrate. And looking at what we have been doing so far, the identity footprint is really very expensive. So the whole idea is now that we should work together.

If we all work together and put what we want to spend on identity and harmonise at the level of the data capture, at the level of the database itself and also at the level of the card, which is a general multi-purpose card. Then we will see that we will be able to optimise what we have spent.

But so far, right now, there is a lot that is required to be spent. And if you look at the Indian status, like I said, that every four months, they recoup what they have spent in the identity just through their cooking gas programme that they give to people and the service that they get.

Similarly, in Nigeria too, if we do that, we will save a lot for our elections. We will save a lot in the ghost workers that we have. We will save a lot in the reform that we do. We will save a lot in even the budgeting process.

The budgeting process is supposed to be based on the people that we have. We will save a lot in security and also save a lot in planning, not by approximation. So, identity sector requires a lot of funding.

Based on some of the calculations that we have done, to do the harmonisation of all the agencies, we will require about N20 billion to do that. Generally, if you take a few key critical agencies, you will require about N5 billion to do that. If you now include upgrading and making sure that you have unique identification for, let’s say about a 100 million people, then you will be talking something about N60 to N65 billion to do that. But all these you can recover in no time. But more importantly is that all the agencies should work together and spend the money wisely.

“Based on some of the calculations that we have done, to do the harmonisation of all the agencies, we will require about N20 billion to do that. Generally, if you take a few key critical agencies, you will require about N5 billion to do that. If you now include upgrading and making sure that you have unique identification for, let’s say about a 100 million people, then you will be talking something about N60 to N65 billion to do that. But all these you can recover in no time. But more importantly is that all the agencies should work together and spend the money wisely.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Technology Times: The Presidential directive on the requirement or the mandate for MDAs to harmonise their data with NIMC was a major game changer in terms of silos of identities that we have in CBN, NCC, Federal Road Safety Commission and quite a number of other places where the efforts of NIMC is being duplicated. What can you say today in terms of the status first of all, of compliance with that Presidential directive and actual result of efforts being made by a whole of these silos of MDAs that are keeping national identity information?

Aziz: I can say since the coming of President Buhari, there has been very helpful collaboration between all the agencies. The very first one to close was the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Biometric Verification Number (BVN) integration. So, that has been going on very well. The second one that we have commenced up to testing the data is that of the SIM registration from Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC). That also is going on very well.

The CBN Governor and also the Executive Chairman of NCC, they are able to direct their agencies to commence these processes. The remaining agencies too, we have had discussions, but we have not started. So that is why I say that there are a lot of collaborations, a lot of efforts to carry out that exercise, but it also requires funding. Places like the passport registrar also, we had very good discussions and they are ready to carry out the harmonisation.

But when NIMC built the infrastructure, because we built the metropolitan network using fiber that connects all the agencies, but then, because of the road construction today, but we have not done that of link creation. And right now, the major problem with collaboration is having a very good link.

When it comes to the Road Safety, the same thing. They have 4.5 million unique drivers. They have many Drivers’ licences but the unique ones that they told us is 4.5 million and it can easily be integrated also.

The next major one is that of the Voters’ register. We have been in discussion with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and we have agreed to even go and capture data again together to improve the quality of data and also the registration of children too.

We have a simplified process that once you register the parent or the guardian, then we will use the biometrics of the parent or the guardian to tie to the child and issue the number to the child without taking the biometrics of the children.

So, from enrolment to the harmonisation of the database and also issuance of the credentials, we all agreed to work together to achieve that purpose.

“When it comes to the Road Safety, the same thing. They have 4.5 million unique drivers. They have many Drivers’ licences but the unique ones that they told us is 4.5 million and it can easily be integrated also. The next major one is that of the Voters’ register. We have been in discussion with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and we have agreed to even go and capture data again together to improve the quality of data and also the registration of children too.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja

Technology Times: Talking about this collaboration with the various agencies, one peculiar one that attracted a lot of attention in the last one year has been the one with the NCC because of the huge number of people who use mobile phone. It was also an issue that also attracted attention to Nigeria when Federal Government imposed what was considered to be the biggest sanction on one of the mobile operators for improper registration of its subscribers. How much progress are you making with NCC? Are there peculiarities that you have seen along the way in terms of the records because they seem to have been gathered from various sources?

Aziz: Incidentally, we have been part and parcel of the SIM registration from the beginning and we also know what really happened. While the operators decided to capture data themselves, because it was agreed at the initial time that they should capture all data, but they said ‘No. NCC should capture the existing data.’ And also at that time, because Nigeria was also so called ‘rich’, we were operating in silos. So everybody will just do what he feels like doing and standards were not followed.

So instead of capturing the whole fingerprints and capturing the four at a time, only four fingers were captured. So these are the basic differences. But you see in Identity Management parlance, you take whatever that is already there and then put the intelligence on top of that data and then combine with other data to come up with an intelligent opinion. So I believe that now, all of us have come to our senses.

There is that need to collaborate. There is need to follow the standards. There is also need to work together. So I believe that there is a lot of compliance especially from the NCC. Like I told you, the EVC has given the order that the data should be pushed to NIMC and so far, we have gotten the test data and carried out the test. But we have not yet completed to get back to them. We have commenced taking part of the data at a time because it takes time as I said.

Also, the technology has a limit that it can take in a day. So in future, we need to add more infrastructure to take care of that. So far, what we have now, because if you enroll now, you will just get the NIN immediately. There is no other place in the world that you can get the NIN immediately. But first of all, we, because of our population, we think that the fourteen major areas that we have is not much. But now, we are increasing by seven major areas every year and that is the population of some countries. So we have a large population and we have to do the right thing. It may take some time to do that but we have to do it. That is the most important aspect of our work.

“And also at that time, because Nigeria was also so called ‘rich’, we were operating in silos. So everybody will just do what he feels like doing and standards were not followed. So instead of capturing the whole fingerprints and capturing the four at a time, only four fingers were captured. So these are the basic differences.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Technology Times: You indicated you have a vision to register every Nigerian. Beyond Federal MDAs, we have also seen that some State Governments have initiated identity enrollment too. So, what can you say today about the status of your collaboration with the State and Local Government Councils to make sure that you can at least reach particularly the rural areas and these underserved areas to embrace the National Identity project?

Aziz: We have discussion with the Governors’ Forum also and discussion with some of the forward-thinking Governors and we think that they will be our champions talking to the other Governors.

Before, all the State Governors have a programme of at least providing free healthcare to children, to pregnant women and also even giving conditional cash transfers. But over the years, it has not been reaching the beneficiaries and most of the states carried out one form of identity management for children. It usually does not work, especially because here in Nigeria, we don’t have strict borders. So we don’t stop people moving from one state to another.

Currently, they have all realised that they need to participate in the NIN. They all want to have NIN in their individual database and by having that NIN, they can compare with the people in their neighboring states. The ghost workers that they have too might not have the chance of moving from one state to another if they embrace the NIN. And I have also seen that all the States and Local Governments always want Federal presence. Therefore, they usually provide office accommodation for the Federal Agencies and usually NIMC and INEC usually house in the same place.

It means that we can communicate, we can do things together and specifically some of the Governors, the Governor of Kaduna State and that of Gombe and Kano, they have provided power for us in some of our registration centers and we are collaborating with them to capture the data.

There are other States too: Delta State and Ekiti, and other States that we have collaborated before and also Cross River. So, these are states that we have been collaborating with and we believe that with this form of collaboration, we will be able to register a lot of people because a lot of people depend on the NIN for their identification.

As I have mentioned, the numbers, even BVN is about 27 million and INEC is seventy something million. So, it means that for the local person, if he goes to anywhere that requires identity, he will find the NIN. A lot of people, even when they go to the bank, they have problem with their BVN, they have to now come to NIMC to authenticate, to clarify their form of identification.

So, in essence, I am saying that the common man, the person that requires the identity, the NIN is not within the passport photographs; is not within the Drivers’ Licence database; some of them are in the INEC database; some of them have telephones and some of them don’t have any. As you know, it is only in Nigeria that you can stay without having any form of identification.

In all other nations, you must have one form of identification and that is why we said it is the NIN that is the appropriate form of identification and it is for everyone, every person that is residing in Nigeria, especially the common people. And also remember that if you are given the card also, automatically you will have a virtual account. And if you can receive any benefit from the Local, State and Federal Government, then you can easily be issued and we have piloted with one bank, but it is open for all the other banks. And we are in discussion with the remaining banks to participate in the issuance of the card.

“As I have mentioned, the numbers, even BVN is about 27 million and INEC is seventy something million. So, it means that for the local person, if he goes to anywhere that requires identity, he will find the NIN. A lot of people, even when they go to the bank, they have problem with their BVN, they have to now come to NIMC to authenticate, to clarify their form of identification.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Technology Times: Talking about that pilot that you did with the bank, there is a unique perspective that you brought to bear in terms of the fact that despite the fact that identity management process is a huge capital intensive venture, you also indicated that it also opens opportunities for return on investments in a sustainable manner. You have hinted about what India has done with its gas project in terms of getting return on investments. Are there other jurisdictions that we have seen return on investments of that nature that might then, because Nigeria is going through recession, that might then enable you explore funding opportunities either from multi-lateral agencies like World Bank or even from the private sector?

Aziz: Right now, we are working with the UN Women and they want us to register about 500,000 women. They want to give credit and then follow through. So, this is one of the real examples that are ongoing right now. But you see, identity is much of a social nature. That is why we say the NIN, as much as possible, enrollment and receiving the NIN, is free of charge. But anything from the card and other businesses can be built on this and one of the things that we are also looking is to expose the APIs, the Application Programming Interfaces, to the system, especially to our teeming workers and developers that they can even come up with other things we may not know. Like I told of an example of a woman that recently just got stranded with her U.S. Passport and Nigeria Passport but only the I.D. card was able to save her in the U.S. airport.

So, we may not likely to say all the benefits that you can get and all the kind of programs that can come up, but as we said in Nigeria, doing reforms, even reforming our judiciary, that is another example. If you can then file using your own NIN because then, your basic Know Your Customer (KYC) has been done therefore, you will get a faster response. And I know that we have a lot of cases, even judges who would have too much cases, some of them is based on identity. While they know the person and they will be able to follow up with the person, they can get justice easily.

Another area is the reform like in ghost workers like I mentioned before and also protection. It is only when we know the people that we can protect. It is only when the policeman in your own area knows the people around there that he can protect them. And you know we are living in a free country whereby you take your plate number from any part of the country and you move to any part of the country and you can stay there. But in some places, when you move to a different jurisdiction, you are given a time limit to change your passport and to change your plate number so that you can be protected, so that the police will know that.

And also, so far again, another area is that we have not yet started giving terminals in the sense that even the policeman on the street will now take your I.D. card to authenticate who you are. Even when you don’t have a card, you can put your fingerprint and it can authenticate that you are the person who you say you are.

There are so much happening online where you don’t even see the person and you have to be sure that it is a human being that you are talking to on the other side and it is not a machine or a server that is responding to you. In that sense, so we need digital certificates. We have already built that infrastructure. The public infrastructure is the only one that is working in Nigeria now and it is NIMC. So all other agencies are to utilise what has been built here.

Yesterday, I saw a news item that CBN is to allow use of Bitcoin, but the fundamental is public infrastructure and we have already built that. Without that public infrastructure, there is no way that you know who the person is at the other side or what you did not do and somebody else would say that you have done it. And also, using the proper identification, we can also eliminate the bad image that Nigerians have.

So if someone outside wants to do a transaction with you and if you can give your NIN, then he will be able to verify who you are and he knows that even if you want to disappear, he knows he has already known who you are. It will help reduce the 419 and also improve the image and return the trust. The whole theme of Identity management system is to rebuild trust in the 21st Century whereby you don’t see the person that you are dealing with.

“And also, so far again, another area is that we have not yet started giving terminals in the sense that even the policeman on the street will now take your I.D. card to authenticate who you are. Even when you don’t have a card, you can put your fingerprint and it can authenticate that you are the person who you say you are.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja

Technology Times: You underlined a very key factor and that is the issue of trust. It is often said that the reason the Nigerian financial sector has not been disbursing a lot of loan is still that issue of verification of identity. So how do you think identity can radically change the nation’s credit system and probably, the overall economy at that?

Aziz: When it comes to identity, you have what is called foundational identity and then transactional identity. We have taken the foundational data and we take the individual’s biometrics. So we are not interested in the transaction that is really happening but we have taken a biometrics of the person and then will allow you to now authenticate and utilise this identity in way and manner in which you will know your own customers.

So, if we are to take the biometrics, take fingerprints of the person, take the picture that is standard picture that we can use for facial recognition and also take the I.D.

So we are saying we have simplified the process so you don’t need to take this information in carrying out your transactions. So there are basic electronic KYC (know your customer) that is assumed that it has been done. Of course, you want to know more information, to build more relationship and to even know the person more than only himself so that you can be sure.

What we are in essence saying is that the basic KYC is done and based on that basic KYC, you can give even a loan to a certain unit. And also, since even the card also has a virtual account, immediately, you can even credit the person with some sum of money. Also, it allows you to trace the person and again 99% of Nigerians are really very transparent and it’s only the 1% that is really spoiling the bag of beans.

So what we are trying to say is that we are rebuilding this trust and based on this trust, if someone is registered and has a National Identification Number, and you are able to authenticate and verify the person, then you can safely issue the person the loan and you will be sure that unless the person goes out of circulation, but it is very easy to trace who the person is.

Technology Times: What do you think we should expect from NIMC in the next few months or the year ahead in terms of other key milestones that you have set or other activities that you would expect from the agency?

Aziz: Part of my vision is that by 2019, we should have at least 100 million unique records and therefore, in the next few months, following that Presidential directive and our roundtable discussions, I will see a lot of coalition that is going to happen between NIMC and the other agencies. With that, there will be a lot of actions that will happen with NIN enrollment not only in NIMC offices, but also in other MDAs. And with the regulations that we have publicized, then we expect to also license other firms, other small-scale enterprises or even individuals to now license them, certify them so that they can commence enrolling and then the numbers will then grow.

That is what I expect to happen and the authentication is going to happen easily and then the APIs will be available for the developers to know other things as value add to the identity management system.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

On a mission…Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Technology Times: The draft regulation on your website says that after a specified period of time, the existing I.D. cards that were issued by the defunct agency will be invalidated. Why was that decision taken and have you already set out a time frame?

Aziz: One thing that we should understand is that every security document that stays more than five years, then the bad people will take advantage of that document and start issuing fake ones. And as you know, that document was issued more than 10 years ago and it has only 2D barcode technology.

And if you can remember, when the banks also started using that technology, you would be sitting in Lagos and then, you would get alert from Sokoto. So they had to move into the chip-enabled card. Since we have moved to this card, actually, our process before is that once you are issued your NIN, it means that you are registered onto the new platform, then, your old card should have been invalid.

But again, we are being just realistic that we are yet to cover all the numbers. So that is why we allow it to go for some time. But we always also have a technology that authenticates, that is, verify if anyone that brings the old, especially the old I.D., is verified because the scammers already know how to either remove the passport or to put a fake 2D barcode on the system.

As you know, we had 35 million of those cards in circulation and it is not easy to just remove that kind of system. But what we are asking is that it should be verified. Very soon, if you see a lot of activities going on, then it means that we will cover large numbers of people who have the NIN especially from the harmonisation and collation, then we are about to stop using that old card. So, the old card is being used with caveat that you need to authenticate and verify. Don’t just take the card at first value and I believe that the financial sector is already aware. Most of them, they always write us to verify that and with the NIN and also electronic verification.

I believe that we will soon leave these old cards and move forward because it’s too old and so many bad people already know how to fool other people. That is why we ask for verification. They should try to verify or ask the person to simply go and do a NIN. Then you are sure the person has and verify the NIN too. But at least his data is in the backend.

“As you know, we had 35 million of those cards in circulation and it is not easy to just remove that kind of system. But what we are asking is that it should be verified. Very soon, if you see a lot of activities going on, then it means that we will cover large numbers of people who have the NIN especially from the harmonisation and collation, then we are about to stop using that old card.”

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Engineer Aliyu Aziz, Director General/CEO of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), seen during the interview with Technology Times at the NIMC Headquarters in Abuja.

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola | Norms ‘to guide conduct in cyberspace’ underway

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola, the Nigerian cyber security expert who was named Commissioner at Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) has told Technology Times that the body is developing norms to guide conduct on the Internet.

Ajijola was recently named as part Commissioners for the Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace, says GCSC is keenly working towards developing standards that should be adhered to in cyberspace.

Ajijola, the Executive Chairman of Consultancy Support Services (CS2), a Nigerian IT Consultancy, told Technology Times in an exclusive interview in Lagos that “one of the core purposes of the Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace is to develop what we call norms for cyberspace.”

The proposed norms would define “how things should be done and how we should operate in cyberspace. For example, in cyberspace, there are equivalences to physical space. When you have challenges in physical space, let’s say a war, there are certain norms; you don’t attack hospitals. You don’t attack schools.

“You don’t attack elderly. You don’t attack women and children. You don’t attack deformed. I am not saying that people don’t, the norms are that you shouldn’t. You should give the Red Cross the opportunity to go in and rescue. What we are saying is that we need to develop equivalents in cyberspace.”

Ajijola says that “for example, you will not go and attack an infrastructure that will jeopardise a hospital. You don’t go and cripple an infrastructure that powers a modern digital city. Basically, it will take you back to the Stone Age. We are just trying to explore ‘what could these norms be?’ ‘What should they be? And of course, we must develop how to enforce them.”

The GCSC Commissioner believes that setting these standards will directly spell out the crimes and will therefore help to determine when a crime is committed.  “If you have a standard set for the norm, then you can make a determination whether somebody is violating it or not.”

Ajijola, the Executive Chairman of Consultancy Support Services (CS2), a Nigerian IT Consultancy, told Technology Times in an exclusive interview in Lagos that “one of the core purposes of the Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace is to develop what we call norms for cyberspace.”

Technology Times file photo shows Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola, the Nigerian cyber security expert who was named Commissioner at the Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC)

Technology Times file photo shows Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola, the Nigerian cyber security expert who was named Commissioner at the Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC)

According to him, “how do you know somebody has gone too far if you don’t set the edge so you have to at least have that setting and you will be surprised that cyber criminals, cyber spies, cyber bad people, they are humans and you will be shocked that if they understand that certain things are norms, not all of them, but many of them will actually adhere to those norms.”

Following his appointment as a Commissioner on the global Internet body, Ajijola’s desire is to be the mouthpiece of not just Nigerians, but Africans.

“I will like everybody who reads this, hears this, listen to this and somehow interacts with what we are saying today to please understand that this appointment is not for me. It is for us. I plan to, God willing, to be able to set up some kind of mechanisms whereby I can receive feedback not just from people like you, but also from others so that I can simply be your mouthpiece at that table.

“To be able to say ‘look, this is the perspective of Black Africa; this is the perspective of the Developing World because there are many of these decisions that are taken in Europe and North America that don’t factor the rest of the world. We don’t have a voice. So, for me, this is the opportunity for me to be the mouthpiece for those ‘voiceless.’ That is what I look forward to.”

Speaking further on his new role, Ajijola says that, “in terms of specific projects, right now, the state we are now is that we are trying to define issues to research into and of course there will be a lot of research opportunities for Nigerians, for Africans, for people of the Developing World.

“One of the challenges we face is that, for example, an international organisation based in let’s say the U.S. decides ‘these are our standards and our norms’ but those standards and norms cannot conform to our own perceptions and realities in Africa. That’s why we need that voice at the table.

“That is what I see my job as because when they set those standards, whether you have been part of it or not, they would say you must follow. You know whenever you log on to some social media or even new software; they would say here is the agreement. If you don’t agree, you can’t use it.

“To be able to say ‘look, this is the perspective of Black Africa; this is the perspective of the Developing World because there are many of these decisions that are taken in Europe and North America that don’t factor the rest of the world. We don’t have a voice. So, for me, this is the opportunity for me to be the mouthpiece for those ‘voiceless.’ That is what I look forward to.”

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola

“Now, let’s say one of those things for example is that ‘when you are talking to your parents, you must look them in the eye. In Africa, we don’t do that. So as at the time those agreements are being formulated, you need to just say that is how the European or the North American does it. That is not our way so please factor our thinking and our perspective into setting those norms and standards.”

For Ajijola, “that, I feel is the long-term benefit that my role can bring. That does not mean as one is sitting down in those meetings, for example, our first meeting has been in Munich. The second meeting is in Berkeley, California; the third meeting is in Singapore. The fourth meeting is going to take place in Hyderabad in India. That doesn’t mean one will not be making contacts and connections.

“That doesn’t mean one will not be learning. That doesn’t mean that one cannot use those contacts and connections and insights and learning to open opportunities, but I am not opening opportunities simply for Nigerians, I want us to look at it as Africans, as people from the Developing World.

“I want us to think bigger than simply ourselves because we shouldn’t simply think of being excellent in Nigeria. We must be globally excellent. We must look at our market as global. If somebody in Yaba is developing an app for example, the app is not only for Surulere, the app is for the world. So we must be world class”, Ajijola says underscoring what he aims to achieve leveraging his new role.

Speaking on cybercrime in Nigeria and measures that can be put in place by institutions to reduce, if possible avert criminal attacks, Ajijola believes that one “cannot avoid cyber attack. It’s going to happen. The bad guys do not sleep. In fact, a very good friend of mine famously said and I want you to note, ‘cyber criminals operate at the speed of light, law enforcements operate at the speed of law.’

“So, there is a natural mismatch. Once you understand that and you appreciate it, then it means that if you are law enforcement, you have to be a bit more proactive. You have to be able to get ready, so that you can react faster; so that you can pre-empt; so that you can anticipate, because you know that the law is slow by nature and it has to be slow because if it is too fast, it will make mistakes.”

Ajijola, whose experiences cut across the private and public sector and as a former tech adviser to Nigeria’s National Security Adviser further, delves into the issue of cyber crime.

“Innocent people will get convicted and you want to avoid that. But that doesn’t mean that we should wait until disaster. Like I said earlier, Noah did not build the ark when it was raining; he built it before the rain came. We need to build our safety cyber security ark now. Are people doing anything about it?’ I would answer very quickly, ‘yes’.

“I would say most of our major financial institutions have significant cyber security investments. Is it enough? No. And when I say it’s not enough, investment doesn’t always mean money. Money is important but there are other investments. For example, ‘does the board of Directors take cyber security seriously enough to focus on it? Because as they say, if ‘oga at the top’ is focusing on it, everybody down the line will take it as important so it’s more than just cash expenditure.

“I would say most of our major financial institutions have significant cyber security investments. Is it enough? No. And when I say it’s not enough, investment doesn’t always mean money. Money is important but there are other investments. For example, ‘does the board of Directors take cyber security seriously enough to focus on it? Because as they say, if ‘oga at the top’ is focusing on it, everybody down the line will take it as important so it’s more than just cash expenditure.

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola

“Government itself, by nature, is a bit slow but to be fair to government, for example, government has the Cybercrime Act. Despite its problems, at least, something is there. Two, government has a National Cyber Security Strategy. Despite its problems, it exists. Government has the National Cyber Security Policy. These are things that have been officially adopted by the President of this country.”

According to Ajijola, “it doesn’t matter which President, the point is, at the highest level, they have been accepted, they are official. So despite whatever flaws you may have with it; it exists. Of course, our typical problem sometimes is proper implementation but I just want the people participating in our chat today to understand that it is not zero. Things have happened. Things are happening. Things continue to happen.”

The GCSC Commissioner also shares his perspectives with Technology Times on the issue of trust in the Nigerian e-commerce landscape and how the desired level of trust can be built to drive growth in the sector.

“We have to understand that trust is not picked up or given, trust is earned. For example, you put your money in Bank A because you trust it. Maybe the systems they have in place; maybe the insurance they have to cover your money; maybe the track record they have”, he says adding that these are the key elements that build trust.

Ajijola has these words for Nigeria’s growing developer ecosystem: “to our developers, our software developers, our apps developers, you have to build cyber security thinking into the design. Today, for example, you go to your typical ATM. What language does it speak? The English language and some of them speak French but none of them speak local languages, bearing in mind that many of our people actually are not what I will call ‘functional illiterates’, therefore, even language is a problem but they can work with pictures.

“You will not park your car or your motorcycle or your Keke Napep or even your bicycle somewhere without locking it. You will not leave your phone open without some kind of lock. These are common sense things. So we now have to apply that same level of common sense in the cyber world. For example, you will not give your password to anybody, you shouldn’t. It’s your signature.

 

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola

Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola

“You design something for not the lowest common denominator but lower common denominators. So I am saying that the issue of cyber security and trust must be built in right from conception and design. Then of course, in development process, you have to use what are established best practices. It is like your home. None of us will leave our house; take those of us who live in Lagos, without locking the door.

“You will not park your car or your motorcycle or your Keke Napep or even your bicycle somewhere without locking it. You will not leave your phone open without some kind of lock. These are common sense things. So we now have to apply that same level of common sense in the cyber world. For example, you will not give your password to anybody, you shouldn’t. It’s your signature.

“If somebody takes your password and logs in to your account and then sends a very rude and nasty email to your oga, you are responsible. It’s you your oga will sack, not the person who sent it because as far he is concerned, it’s from you. We also have to be able to understand responsibility and that was in issues relating to things like e-commerce, it takes time. That trust has to be built.”

Ajijola goes further to buttress this when he says that, “it’s going to happen to the extent that e-commerce, it is not only here to stay, it is here to grow. We have no choice but to get into it. The question is: is it going to be locally-driven e-commerce or internationally driven?’ If the local e-commerce is not going to be trusted, there is an alternative. I can just as well buy ‘my garri in Ghana or India as much as I can get it in Nigeria.’

“It’s a global market so even back to what I said you have to be globally competitive. You have to be globally trusted. You have to be able to use the same trust mechanism and standards that anybody in California or Singapore uses. It cannot be ‘let us manage it.’ Manage doesn’t work in cyberspace.”

nHub | Jos incubator eyes tech hub for Northern Nigeria

nHub Incubator and Accelerator Ltd, a technology hub accelerating and nurturing technology start-ups in Plateau State, says it hopes to transform Jos into the technology outsourcing centre for Northern Nigeria.

Theodore Longji, Lead, research and development, head of partnerships at nHub, who dropped this hint, told Technology Times in an exclusive interview says the technology idea incubator and accelerator hub was set up to assist young people with great ideas to launch and establish their businesses by providing them with needed support, which includes the seed funding.

He further reveals that nHub is working with a focused objective to transform Jos into a technology outsourcing centre for Northern Nigeria, hinting that the hub has set up plans to achieve this objective.

The technology idea incubator and accelerator hub executive says the Northern part of Nigeria is slow in the adoption of technology, but despite that, it will not relent in striving to incubate and accelerate technology and innovative ideas in the region.

“We will look at the viability of the idea before we move further. First, is the idea solving a problem? If yes, how big? This is because most problems are not big enough, so people have a way around them. Then, does this idea need a technology? Has the idea been properly researched and who is the customer? We begin development and usability test. If that is successful, then we lunch the product,” he explains to Technology Times.

Longji explains that when a young person with an idea that needs technology to launch comes to nHub, the idea passes through a number of assessments to ensure its viability, and subsequently assist the person with the technology and seed funding to launch.

Theodore Longji, Lead, research and development, head of partnerships at nHub, who dropped this hint, told Technology Times in an exclusive interview says the technology idea incubator and accelerator hub was set up to assist young people with great ideas to launch and establish their businesses by providing them with needed support, which includes the seed funding.

Theodore Longji, Lead, research and development, head of partnerships at nHub.

“We will look at the viability of the idea before we move further. First, is the idea solving a problem? If yes, how big? This is because most problems are not big enough, so people have a way around them. Then, does this idea need a technology? Has the idea been properly researched and who is the customer? We begin development and usability test. If that is successful, then we lunch the product,” he explains to Technology Times.

Even after assisting the start-up to launch the product or service into the market and secure seed funding, nHub does not leave the start-up to go on without support.

“We will still be there. Remember, there is need for further growth, so we will need to be there to offer necessary support. We will provide the technology and get you to that position where a venture capitalists can spot you and get to invest.

“We have Ventureplatformhub who are doing that, and getting seed funding for start-ups all over Nigeria. So, we can get our Start-ups to that position. We are interested in transforming our young people’s ideas into strong ventures,” Longji says.

While revealing some of nHub’s agenda for 2017, the head of partnerships at nHub says this year, which is themed “Year of the App”, the incubator now wants to ship viable products they incubated into the market.

According to him, “this year alone, we have collaborated with different tech organisation to roll out free programmes that are geared towards improving the tech culture. We are already running the next economy programme sponsored by some international organisations and the state government.”

In addition, he said the nHub will be starting a fellowship programme for graduates and members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), which will equip them with technology experience they need to be employed after their service year.

“Our fellowship programme which is coming up soon will allow successful graduates and corps members to have world class experience during the 10-month programme, after which some will be absorbed into nHub, while the rest will be placed into private organisations,” Longji adds.

Winners of HackJos 2016 edition receiving their awards

“When we set up the Hub, our plan was to begin to incubate and accelerate technology and innovative ideas in the North, and to make Jos an outsourcing center where by products can be developed at a cheaper price and shipped to where the market is, Like Lagos, Abuja and the likes,” Longji says.

So far, the hub is progressing in building and strengthening the technology culture in the minds of those who are yet to accept and love technology and new innovations in the region.

“Honestly, is very slow but we are gradually making progress in terms of creating a tech culture through different ways, which include tech events like Hackathon (hackjos.ng), NASA International space apps and #Hash code. This is gradually creating the enabling atmosphere for tech culture to begin to be a norm.”

According to Longji, “technology events like this can foster interest in software engineering among our youths who happen to be our target and drivers.”

Speaking further on what nHub has done so far in building technology culture in the region, the nHub executive said they have placed much focus on the youths and women in order to prepare them for the task ahead.

Sevocoder code club inauguration at TCNN Staff Secondary Schools, Buruku, Plateau State.

“We have been able to successfully initiate a programming club in secondary schools across Jos called Sevocoder code club. The idea is to see these young ones have interest in software engineering. If you look at the trend in the developed countries you will see that most programs developed, like apps and games etc. are done by children within the ages of 12 – 18.

“So, we are working very hard to actualizing our vision of transforming Jos into a tech outsourcing centre. We need to train the army for that task. And we are encouraging females to enroll for our training for free in our women in tech initiative,” Longji says.

Kiakia Gas | Nigerian start-up disrupting cooking gas business

Uwandu Emmanuel, founder of Kiakia Gas is confident that his start-up can leverage technology to change the face of cooking gas business in Nigeria.

Uwandu who founded Kiakia Gas, a start-up Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) provider, says he is on track to technology to disrupt energy consumption.

Uwandu, who sees technology redefining the global LPG industry, says his innovative idea introduced in Nigeria will not only create as many cooking gas outlets, but also revitalise the sector using technology.

“The LPG sector is almost new in Nigeria so we are coming in to use technology to recreate that industry. Technology has given us room to engage our customers. We have numerous channels where we engage them”, Uwandu told Technology Times in an exclusive interview at the iDEA Hub in Yaba, Lagos.

Giving an insight of how he founded his company, Uwandu told Technology Times that the rising causality figures from firewood and kerosene smoke inhalation incidents recorded annually in Nigeria prompted him to venture into the business of “cooking gas” which he sees as much safer and more efficient to use.

“It is appalling that women still die from firewood and kerosene smoke when Nigeria has over 181 million cubic feet of gas that has not been touched. It is regrettable and painful that people use kerosene and they have health issues when we have these resources. It is like having food and you still die of hunger”, he says.

“It is appalling that women still die from firewood and kerosene smoke when Nigeria has over 181 million cubic feet of gas that has not been touched. It is regrettable and painful that people use kerosene and they have health issues when we have these resources. It is like having food and you still die of hunger”, he says.

Uwandu Emmanuel, founder of Kiakia Gas is confident that his start-up can leverage technology to change the face of cooking gas business in Nigeria.

Uwandu Emmanuel, founder of Kiakia Gas is confident that his start-up can leverage technology to change the face of cooking gas business in Nigeria.

There is also the market dynamics as “cooking gas is now on the rise in Nigeria because kerosene is no longer available and of cause you know the health challenges associated with using kerosene. Over 470, 000 women die on an annual basis because they use firewood and kerosene. The smoke they inhale is hazardous to their health.”

According to him, “that was what gave birth to the idea of Kiakia Gas. And of course, we also have to stay profitable as a business to be able to sustain our idea. So it is more or less like recreating energy consumption in Nigeria and basically putting our name in the sands of time as people that contributed to the development of our continent.”

He further revealed that Kiakia Gas is currently receiving tutelage with iDEA (Information Technology Developers Entrepreneurship Accelerator) Hub in Yaba Lagos and the start-up incorporated in 2014, launched its website in 2015. It partially commenced operation in August 2015 but fully commenced operation in January 2016 and as at the end of 2016, the start-up had generated about N250 million revenue.

The Kiakia Gas founder explains that at the heart of his business model is to help set up entrepreneurs in the LPG sector.

The Kiakia Gas founder explains that at the heart of his business model is to help set up entrepreneurs in the LPG sector.

The Kiakia Gas founder explains that at the heart of his business model is to help set up entrepreneurs in the LPG sector.

“We have a ‘pay small-small’ package where if for instance, it will cost you N6 million to set up, and you want to be paying N200,000 within a period and when you finish, we set you up.

“For now, we don’t have that package where you can set up and pay gradually until you pay completely or at least, 85%, then we set you up and you can start doing business.

According to Uwandu the business is gaining traction as “we have numerous customers coming to us online, www.kiakiagas.com. They place orders. So when we set you up, we set a facility up because of regulatory and statutory requirements. We get you a good location, a physical store. So when people place an order, our dispatch rider picks it up from you and delivers to them.

“The places where we will set up the business for them are places where we already have a vibrant market, your physical store. People come in to buy which is still profitable. We also push sales offline but the larger part of the sales; we are going to provide you online”, he explains.

“Currently, the contract we have with the businesses that we set up is that Kiakia Gas will ensure that you sell 30% of every quantity of gas that you get, you are responsible for 70% and we hope to change that to 50% by the end of the year.”

The Kiakia Gas founder intends to take over the fast-growing LPG market in Nigeria and rival existing players in the industry. “We are coming in with something different. We are coming in with a whole new idea, a whole new approach. So it makes a lot of sense that naturally, we will just displace these people.

The Kiakia Gas founder intends to take over the fast-growing LPG market in Nigeria and rival existing players in the industry. “We are coming in with something different. We are coming in with a whole new idea, a whole new approach. So it makes a lot of sense that naturally, we will just displace these people.

 

Young Nigerians seen at work inside the Information Technology Developers Entrepreneurship Accelerator (iDEA) Hub in Yaba, Lagos.

“Our passion, the energy we put into it, we do a lot of awareness campaigns. You can’t do that if you don’t have the passion. That’s why we help them to create businesses. The reason is we have to multiply the supply chain in the sense that we have to duplicate it across different places but the people we are duplicating these things for ought to make money from it, that’s why we create the platform for them.”

Uwandu said he can see Kiakia Gas become the largest supplier of cooking gas in Sub-Saharan Africa with presence in at least 22 countries.

He hinted Technology Times how he hopes to achieve this ambitious vision when he says that “by the end of this year, we will consolidate the Lagos market.”

According to him, “in the Nigerian market, Lagos is the biggest. We will be in four different cities aside Lagos this year. We are looking at Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Onitsha in Anambra state basically. We are launching on the Island, Lekki precisely on the 14th.”

According to Uwandu, “we wanted to more or less solve a social problem and the social problem was cooking gas as it concerns the rural area. That is why we started out on the Mainland (in Lagos) where we feel we still have rural people. But now, we are launching on the Island because of the growing market. Next month, we will be expanding to another location.”