Due diligence and verification of domestic staff on ‘CheckMyPeople’ will assist families avert dangers

With the increasing dangers of recruiting unknown people to carry out domestic task, CheckMyPeople, an online policing platform was created to assist in giving detailed and accurate information of persons being recruited. In this interview with Chudi Obiofuma, founder of the firm, he speaks to BusinessDay analyst, Michael Ani, on various ways the platform is helping families, employers and even employees in averting such dangers.

Kindly speak briefly about what the CheckMyPeople online policing platform entails
CheckMyPeople introduced the concept of Online Community Policing to mitigate this risk of hiring unknown and unverified people in our homes, as well as providing a means to document staff personal and professional conduct while working with their current employer. These records will constitute their work history and will be searchable by future employers as a means of learning where they have worked, what they have done, and how they conducted themselves with past employers.

The value proposition is that when every member of the community document their staff, the community gets to maintain a comprehensive employment history of all domestic employees.
Note that this is different from the government proposed Community Policing because this is purely meant for information gathering and reporting. This is not an enforcement community. It is an online community that will share information about those we employ as domestic staff in our homes so that potential employers in the community can avoid those with criminal backgrounds. Online Community Policing has nothing to do with enforcement, but vigilance and Information gathering.

What was the motivation behind the creation of CheckMyPeople?
One of the greatest risks households in Nigeria face today is the dependence on unknown and unverified persons for domestic services. Some criminal elements have taken advantage of the unregulated industry to unleash mayhem upon Nigerian homes. There have been many cases reported in the media where domestic staff engage in fraudulent activities and once discovered, disappear into thin air before they can be apprehended, then end up with another unsuspecting families who have no way of checking their employment history nor past infractions. They continue their criminal behaviour knowing they could continue to have access to unsuspecting families undetected due to the lax checks in the current unregulated and largely informal industry. Our research shows that there is no independent way of verifying the accuracy and authenticity of “who domestic employees say they are” and the names under which they present themselves. Name identification is ineffective because they go by various aliases and assume a name of choice when they apply for employment.

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We explored ways to leverage technology to address this very dire social problem. But first, we had to get to the root of the problem. Two main issues came to mind! First, the way we recruit people is by word of mouth, and not based on any data or records. Secondly, we as employers do not communicate with each other. This “wall of silence” is the reason why these criminal elements can move from home to home, committing crimes because there are no records of these crimes available to prospective employers. So with records maintained by current and past employers, communication is established with prospective employers, who can see the employment history of each applicant, and better assess the risk associated with hiring them, especially if they have a criminal record in their history.

We have seen increasing cases of kidnapping, theft, human trafficking, and child abuse amongst other crimes, caused not only by domestic workers but also by those whom they work for. How can your platform protect homes from criminal domestic staff?
First, we give you the employer an opportunity to register your staff on our database and provide assessments of their performances (good or bad), during the tenure of their employment with you. Once your staff know that a record of bad behaviour will be available to potential employers, it will serve as an effective deterrent from bad behaviour. It gives you leverage over the conduct and service provided by your domestic staff, knowing that a bad record prevents them from being employed in the future. On the other hand, an exemplary record will make an employee a great candidate for future employment.

Membership affords each employer the ability to search our database to view records of an employee or applicant’s prior employment history. The search capability enables you to search only individuals seeking employment with you (Applicant) or current staff. Data available in a search will include past jobs held, past assessments from past employers as well as an assessment of the person’s past conduct. Where a record of criminal behaviour is found, our database will include documentation of either a police report or a court ruling.
CheckMyPeople as an organization does not make recommendations. Employers are free to make their decisions based on information available from peers in the community who have had prior interactions with the employee/applicant.

The CheckMyPeople platform leverages on data from the NIMC. At present, only about 19% of Nigerians have been registered to having their NIN. How does this affect your operations and how are you working to address the issue?
The National Identification Number (NIN) is critical to our use at CheckMyPeople for the following reasons: 1) Our Nigerian equivalent of a Social Security Number (SSN), the NIN uniquely identifies a person in Nigeria. 2) It is associated with stringent biometric data collected by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and can be verified against the NIMC database to ensure authenticity before it is used on our platform. 3) It discourages child labour, and CheckMyPeople does not support the use of child labour as domestic staff. Insisting on the use of NIN in our system ensures that only age-eligible candidates are registered on our system (18+).

The National Identity Management Commission has reaffirmed its commitment towards creating, managing, operating, and maintaining a secure National Identity Database and issuing the National Identification Number (NIN) to all Nigerians and legal Residents, in fulfilment of its mandate. Currently, 40 Million Nigerians have been enrolled. The Digital Identity Ecosystem approach adopted by NIMC would accelerate mass enrollment. This will exponentially increase the number of Nigerians and legal residents registered over the next 3 years.
We do not expect the current level of enrollment to impact us negatively. It may not cover the entire Nigerian population, but it is a very significant baseline.

How well are you collaborating with various security agencies, government agencies as well as non-governmental organizations that are also in the cause of seeing that various crimes and illegal activities in the country are reduced?
We have had conversations with NAPTIP, and we are hoping to interest them in exploring this platform to reduce the incidence of child labour in the country and especially child abuse. With our Identity Verification system, they can ensure that employers are aware of the age of potential domestic help before they hire them. That way they avoid hiring minors in their homes.

We are also hoping to interest NSCDC to leverage this platform in keeping a record of all security guards employed at different homes in Nigeria. By mandating private security guard companies to document their staff on this platform, they get to keep information on the different homes where they are working as well as gather information on their conduct.
Finally, where a criminal case is brought up against a domestic employee and the employer takes action either with the police or court of law, our database will include documentation of either relevant police report or a court ruling associated with that employee.

Since launched in 2019, can you share to us some of the success stories?
Our Identity Verification Service launched in 2019 has been a tremendous success. Nigerians are using the service to verify the accuracy of their data held on the NIMC database. Significant numbers have found issues with their date of birth and in some cases misspelling or misplacement of their names. This has enabled them to follow up with NIMC to make the corrections before presenting to the various institutions requiring the NIN as proof of Identity. This has saved valuable time and frustration of having their identification process disrupted either at the passport office or during the numerous government programs for which they require accurate NIN identification to apply.

We are seeing increased traffic from employers wanting to verify the Identity of their staff. This is happening across the different socio-economic spectrum, not just for domestic help but businesses who just want to be sure their employees, tenants, business associates, agents etc. are who they claim they are.

Kindly give us a step by step explanation on how users can better use your platform. How secure is it and at what cost?
There are many ways people can engage with us. The primary way is through our Web App on https://www.checkmypeople.com. The first step is to register for free. By doing so you are given access to register your staff on the platform. However, each employee must have a National Identification Number (NIN), with which they will be uniquely identified in Nigeria and on our platform. NIN can be obtained by enrolling at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
You do not need a physical ID card to enrol your staff. NIMC assigns NIN after biometric data capture, so with that, you can register your staff. This is a required step of registration because only verified NIN can be used to register staff on our platform. CheckMyPeople has been issued a verification license that will enable you to verify a NIN presented to you based on stipulated business rules.

This service will display basic and relevant biometric data of the NIN owner with the person’s picture. You can then verify that the person presenting the NIN matches the official record kept on the NIMC database. You may then enter the current staff contact information, address, and guarantor. You should also upload the latest picture of the employee. We advise you always to keep an up to date picture of your staff.
Once you have the profile set up to your satisfaction, you get the consent of your employee, by downloading the consent form from our members’ page. Have them sign and upload the signed copy.

Is your platform open to only Nigerians? If yes, are there plans of scaling your operations into other countries?
For now, our platform is open to only employers’ resident in Nigeria. However, employees may include legal residents from other countries as long as they have duly enrolled and been issued a NIN.