NATIONAL IDENTITY | Nigeria needs N65 billion, NIMC CEO says

NATIONAL IDENTITY | Nigeria needs N65 billion, NIMC CEO says

NATIONAL IDENTITY | Nigeria needs N65 billion, NIMC CEO says

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Nigeria needs about N65 billion to reach remaining population yet to be enrolled under the National Identity Management programme, Engineer Aliyu Aziz Abubakar, Director General/Chief Executive Officer, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), has told Technology Times exclusively.

The National Identity Management programme underway in Nigeria involves gathering of personal biometric information of Nigerians and residents in the country “to provide secure but simplified infrastructure and processes for enabling individuals to assert their identity in a dependable manner.”

Aziz, who heads NIMC, the Federal Government agency responsible for National ID management told Technology Times in an exclusive interview in his office in Abuja that the agency continues to make progress in its drive to capture all Nigerians under the National ID programme.

According to him, significant progress has been made in enrolments, which has led to the issuance of National Identity Numbers (NIN), the unique identifier for all Nigerians, but not that much has been achieved with the issuance of National ID cards.

According to the NIMC DG/CEO, who resumed duty at the nation’s ID agency on November 23, 2015, “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.”

 

According to the NIMC DG/CEO, who resumed duty at the nation’s ID agency on November 23, 2015, “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.”

NATIONAL IDENTITY | Nigeria needs N65 billion, NIMC CEO says
Engineer Aliyu Aziz Abubakar, Director General/Chief Executive Officer, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) during the interview with Technology Times

He says that, “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 numbers that we are doing very well but in terms of the card, we are yet to achieve the optimum.”

For Nigeria’s ID manager chief, funding stands in the way of achieving universal coverage for the programme, coupled with diverse silos of ID programmes across various government agencies, that need to be harmonised with the database of NIMC.

The latter hurdle has been addressed by President Muhammadu Buhari, who has directed that stand-alone ID information of Nigerians held by government agencies should be handed over to NIMC by all the affected agencies. Progress is being made on this front, Aziz says, but not much on the funding front.

“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 the agencies. The whole idea is to discuss about the Presidential directive that we should harmonise and integrate and look 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.”

Aziz says with handshaking across all agencies of government on ID management, “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 multipurpose 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.”

The NIMC DG/CEO gave insight into the projected funding outlay hoped to deliver an effective National ID system for Nigeria when he tells Technology Times that “identity sector requires a lot of funding.”

According to Aziz, “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 because 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 N60-65 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.”

According to Aziz, “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 because 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 N60-65 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.”

NATIONAL IDENTITY | Nigeria needs N65 billion, NIMC CEO says
Government agencies need to work together on harmonised national ID, says Engineer Aliyu Aziz Abubakar, Director General/Chief Executive Officer, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC)

Apart from National ID system serving the key cornerstone of building a modern society where every individual is able to assert their unique identity in a secure and reliable manner, for the government, the authentication and verification of citizens’ identity enables the delivery of public services, facilitates commerce and enhances governance and law enforcement, says the NIMC chief.

Aziz also believes that Nigeria can borrow a leaf from the Indian National Identity Management programme, which the latter has leveraged effectively for delivery of services and recouping funds invested in the initiative among Indians.

The NIMC CEO says that if we look at the Indian example, “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.”

He says that “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.”

For him, President Buhari has been a game changer in the National Identity Management programme has his Presidential directive to all government agencies is helping to drive forward the harmonisation of identity information held by different agencies with NIMC. But progress has also been slow.

According to Aziz, “I can say since the coming of President Buhari, there has been very helpful collaboration between all the agencies and the very first one to close was the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Biometric Verification Number integration. So, that has been going on very well.

According to Aziz, “I can say since the coming of President Buhari, there has been very helpful collaboration between all the agencies and the very first one to close was the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Biometric Verification Number integration. So, that has been going on very well.”

NATIONAL IDENTITY | Nigeria needs N65 billion, NIMC CEO says
President Muhamadu Buhari made a difference to the programme says Engineer Aliyu Aziz Abubakar, Director General/Chief Executive Officer, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC)

The second one that we have commenced up to testing the data is that of the SIM registration from Nigerian 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.”

According to him, “the remaining agencies too, we have had discussions but we have not started. So, that is why I say that there is a lot of collaborations, a lot of effort 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’ license but the unique ones that they told us is 4.5 million and it can easily be integrated also.”

The NIMC DG/CEO continues that, “the next major one is that of the voters’ registrar. 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 parents or the guardian, then we will use the biometrics of the parents or the guardian to tie to the child and issue the number to the child without taking the biometrics of the children. So, for enrollment to the harmonisation of the database and also issuance of the credentials, we all agree to work together to achieve that purpose.”

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Kolade Akinola Technology Journalist at Technology Times Mobile: + 234 (0) 807 401 6027