Integrating Nigerians database: A vital national task
Do what is necessary to avoid the US hammer on Nigeria come February 22
Central to the downgrade of the consular access and status of Nigerian citizens in the United States is the question of unreliable data. The US noted that Nigeria did not directly share personal information, including immigrants’ criminal histories, stolen passport information and suspected links to terrorism. Yet the country has information on several databases that only requires integration and consolidation.
Included in the “uniform screening standard and procedure” of the US are in-person interviews and a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that multiple applicants do not use duplicates. Section 4 on “Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for all Immigration Programs” identifies others as “amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States”.
President Donald Trump of the US on January 30 named Nigeria alongside six other countries as those with restricted immigration status to America. Nigerians lost the right to apply for immigrant visas and status. The Americans say the federal government did not respond to various demands for information and action bothering on our identity management system.
BusinessDay posits that the principal task of the Presidential Committee headed by the Minister of Interior should be the integration of all databases on Nigerian citizens to form one central database. The Rauf Aregbesola committee should do all within its powers and seek more powers where necessary to ensure that it delivers this urgent and vital national task.
Databases bearing information on Nigerians include the Electoral Register; the Drivers’ License portal of the Federal Road Safety Commission and the Bank Verification Number portal of the Bankers’ Committee managed by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System. Add the verified numbers from the West African Examinations Council’s Junior and Senior Secondary School examinations and that of the National Examination Council (NECO). Then there is the shaky Nigerian Identification Number run by the Nigerian Identity Management Commission.
We must align all six databases into one. They have enough to provide verification and cross-checking. It should be possible through one body, such as the NIMC, to say with certainty that a Nigerian is who he presents as herself. You verify through a central database linked to others.
A verified central database is the standard across the world. Given the insecurity in the country and concerns about many of our IDs, a unified framework established on the most secure platforms and incorporating biometrics is highly recommended.
The Rauf Arebesola committee should do what is necessary to ensure that the American hammer does not land on Nigeria on February 22. It should then think long term of at least 18 months to two years to get this national framework in place. We need it as an urgent and important imperative.
What exists show that it is possible for Nigeria to provide a secure identification system for its citizens. We enjoin the federal government to get on with the job.