Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Ever since the Federal government through the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) issued the new order  on  the linkage of the National Identification Number ( NIN) with the  Subscriber Identification Module otherwise known as the SIM card by all Nigerians coupled with the issuance of deadline to that effect and the threats that follows , there have been flurry of activities around the offices of the National Identification Management Commission by Nigerians who are  eager to beat the deadline as well as  a sudden reawakening on the essence of getting enrolled with the scheme. And despite the shifting of the deadline, the awareness about the exercise and the frenzied generated have  continued to soar.

Nigeria with an estimated  population of 200 million inhabitants has an estimated 198 million active mobile lines and as at  May, 2020, only 41.5 million of this number have registered for the national identity card. Although, this is not the first time such directive would be issued, but this is the first time it would go with a deadline and the agency seems to be serious with the threat this time around. Truth is that this renewed activities and the  frenzied that follows  have  again brought to the fore the importance of a national database that will serve all intent and purposes.

Down memory lane, there have been several spirited attempts in the past to get  a national data base for the country through the national identity registration,  all of which suffered major set-backs. According to an update on the website of the National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC) , the national identity card system was initially conceived in 1977 but the project did not see the light of the day. In 2003, a new scheme managed by the Directorate of National Civic Registration (DNCR) was initiated and about 54 million Nigerians were registered, however, the scheme failed to meet official expectations and was also hampered by allegations of corruption and embezzlement of funds. Also, the new Nigerian national ID card​ scheme was launched on 28 August 2014 by President  Good luck Jonathan.  

The National Identity Management Commission (“NIMC”) was established in 2007 pursuant to the NIMC Act[1] to create, manage, maintain and operate a unified National Identity Database for Nigerians. The National Identity Management Commission, thus came into effect in 2010 and an initial budget of about 30 billion naira  was appropriated in the 2011 federal budget.

 The National Identification Number (NIN) is the unique number which identifies individuals for life and is issued to Nigerians by the National Identity  Management Commission ( NIMC).  As soon as individuals are enrolled in the system, it is used to match them with their  biometric data and other details in the National Identity database during verification and authentication. The NIN according to the concerned authorities  is set to be used for all transactions in Nigeria requiring identity verification.

Suffice therefore to state that the NIN will henceforth be used for the following purpose among others, obtaining National e-ID card, travel i.e  (international passport application & acquisition),  opening personal bank accounts,  getting driver’s license,  obtaining  Permanent Voters’ Card,  participating in the National Health Insurance Scheme,  payment of  taxes,  transactions relating to the contributory pension scheme among others. 

Ever since the launch of the exercise soon after the enactment of the Law, NIMC offices have  been opened across the country with officers who are being paid with tax payers money duly engaged. But, lo and behold ! , Nigerians had  maintained  a non-challant  attitude towards the enrollment exercise despite repeated efforts by the agency to get people to see reasons why they must enroll until the bubble burst.

Just like the rush that then characterized the obtainment of the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) , Nigerians have again demonstrated that unless they are coerced and issues of such importance are tied to things they cannot do without such as their Bank Accounts and the SIM card in the latest instance, they will not readily adhere to government directives. This is no doubt a direct manifestation of the level of indiscipline that can be exhibited by Nigerians both the young and the old, educated or non - educated and what have you, yet they are those who  complain of non-functionality of government machineries. Be as it may, the government has also learnt a new lesson from the exercise as can be implied.

All said and done the importance of a NIN registration or biometric data  capturing of any form cannot be over- emphacised . An effective national identity management system is critical to the development of any economy. It provides a universal identification infrastructure for a country that enables access and means to confirm the identity of individuals residing in a country. Thus, proper economic planning, adequate intelligence gathering and a functioning internal and external security architecture can be easily  achieved.

And after several failed attempts in the past, the ongoing enrollment by the National identity Management Commission is a renewed attempt towards a credible National Data base system  in Nigeria and every  Nigerians must be ready to support the scheme and  ensure that the nation gets it right at least this time around.

To many Nigerians who had  wondered aloud why things are not working in their country, while things are working in other developed climes, perhaps , this no doubt is partly due to the absence of a National Database. In other climes, where we so much made references to and where we alluded to that things work perfectly well , they have an efficient data base system that makes it very easy to detect crime for instance and regulate social activities as the dossier of every members of the public is just a click away.

With this latest development, it is expected that Nigerians will begin to experience a new lease of life while its socio -economic life is bound to be placed on a strong footing as soon as the desired success is achieved with the NIN registration. Lucky enough, the Federal government has also hinted that it would eventually replace the Bank Verification Numbers which had been in use with the NIN. This in essence means that the nation is inching towards a single National Database system that will ensure effective coordination of activities within a centrally controlled system. This is no doubt a welcome development that must be supported by every Nigerians .

Part of the gains would be that for a country like Nigeria with ample security  challenges for instance, the  creation of a centralised identity database of all Nigerians will be have a far reaching impact in addressing insecurity.  Just like experiences in many developed countries have shown,  all security agencies rely on information from centralised identity database to perform their functions flawlessly, thus governments place premium on identification in their budgeting plans.

The issue of the multiplicity of the registration exercise which   has been the bane of a centralised and unified data base over the years must be squarely addressed under the new scheme. This is expected to give way especially with the new National Digital Identity Ecosystem which will ensure  that Nigerians  can register with other  relevant government agencies,  but when the agencies do the registration, they must  send the information to the NIMC to generate the NIN as the current situation demands.  And once a citizen has  the NIN, by impulse nobody should register such person again or take their  biometrics. All they need to do is to take the  biometrics and verify that the person  is the one and then carry on with the service that needed to be rendered.

According to the Director-General of the National Identity Management Agency, Engineer  Aliyu Aziz, while  speaking  on the national identification number, and its  challenges,  the agency have about 1,000 centers nationwide.  The figure is expected to significantly increase due to the recent mad rush, but the country may The standard of the biometric  is  that for every 50,000 people, there is the need  for  a Centres. So Nigeria with  approximately 200 million populace  is expected to have at least  4,000 centres to be optimal or something far beyond that . 

The Federal government must be ready to provide enough fund to increase the number of enrollment centres , so that at the end of the mad rush after which a substantial number of about 200 million population would have been captured, the exercise can continue seamlessly across the country. Then, we can conveniently say that the nation has laid a solid foundation for a genuine national data base system which can be built upon.

Waheed Ogunjobi, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Abeokuta the Ogun State capital and can be reached on 08035004741,

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