• Monday, May 27, 2024
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New multipurpose ID card raises concerns amid N80bn NIMC budget, NIN registration struggles

107.3 million Nigerians now captured in database – NIMC

The Federal Government, through the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), recently announced a new initiative of multipurpose identity cards despite the allocation of N80 billion earmarked for the agency in three years and the challenges Nigerians face during National Identification Number (NIN) registration. Despite the government’s efforts to streamline identification processes, Damilola Olufemi writes on the concerns that arise regarding accessibility, accuracy, and the overall impact on citizens’ lives and the economy.

In 2014, Suliat Oyinkansola applied for her NIN registration in Ilesha, Osun State. With just N100, she was able to complete the process within two weeks and get her slip.

Read also: Data breach: NIMC bars agents from name, details modification

At the registration point, she and other applicants were given a slip to fill in with their details before it was filed with their biometrics into the computer by NIMC officials.

“Afterwards, we paid N50 for lamination, and we were told we should come back after two weeks to collect the other slip,” Oyinkansola said.

After two weeks, she went back and was told to pay another N50 for lamination. However, to her amazement, she and others were never given the chance to cross-check the biodata filled into the computer system by the NIMC official to know if it was correct or not.

Seven years later, when she wanted to apply for her travel passport, she realised the information processed for her by the NIMC officials in Osun State had an error.

“I wanted to use my NIN for my passport, but it was discovered that my date of birth on my NIN was not the same as my bank verification number,” she said.

The NIMC, an agency under the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain, and manage the National Identity Database (NIDB) in Nigeria and register persons covered by the Act.

The NIMC was created to replace and take over all assets and liabilities, including the personnel in both the state and local government offices nationwide, of the defunct Directorate of National Civic Registration.

The agency also designates NIN and issues General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to citizens of Nigeria and those living within the country legally.

The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (formerly known as the Federal Ministry of Communications Technology) was created in 2011 to drive economic growth through digital technology and innovation.

The ministry is mandated to accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy by enhancing productivity in critical sectors.

In 2010, the NIMC started the enrollment exercise for the NIN, which prompted the issuance of a multipurpose card in 2013.

A non-intelligible number

The NIN consists of 11 non-intelligible numbers randomly chosen and assigned to an individual after enrollment in the NIDB. The uniqueness of the number, according to the NIMC, is that it can never be reassigned, given, or used by another person.

The number is used to tie all records about an individual in the database. It is used to establish or verify an individual’s identity.

Every citizen and legal resident in Nigeria is eligible to enrol for their NINs.

Former Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, expressed in 2020 that security personnel could utilise the data generated through the NIN to combat Nigeria’s terrorists and insurgency.

The minister who served under the government of former President Muhammadu Buhari had emphasised the relevance of technology, particularly NIN, to track terrorists and safeguard the nation.

I spent over N50,000 to correct errors made by officials

For Oyinkansola to successfully apply for her travel passport, she visited an Ikeja NIN office to rectify the error.

The process, according to her, took about two weeks before she was able to collect the corrected version.

Read also: NIMC, NCC partner to boost NIN verification process

However, she was only able to achieve this after paying money for the processes.

“I spent N40,000 to change the date of birth on the NIN to be the same as BVN,” she said.

After she thought the rigorous process had ended, she began another race of rectification.

The bottleneck for her was when she was notified to go and modify her NIN because it had been suspended, adding that this led to the suspension of her bank account and mobile number.

“All my bank accounts no longer work. My mobile number operators demand that I go to NIN,” she expressed.

She was curious to ask and eager to know why because, according to her, she never used it for illegal acts.

“I only use it (the NIN) for SIM registration and banking operations,” she told our correspondent.

At all the NIN offices she visited, she was told it costs N15,000 to rectify it before she can be able to use it again.

“I was so devastated. The modification lasted for two weeks before it was sorted. On NIN, I used N100 to do it, and I have spent not less than N55,000 for an error that could have been avoided by the officials,” she expressed.

What the NIN was meant to achieve

According to the NIMC, an individual’s NIN is used to tie together all records about such a person, such as demographic data, fingerprints, head-to-shoulder facial pictures, other biometric data, and a digital signature in the NIDB, making it relatively easy to confirm and verify such an individual’s identity when they engage in travel and transactions.

The NIN is used for retrieving an individual’s captured information from the NIDB, verification of voter eligibility during elections, and prevention of fraudulent or criminal activities where someone else impersonates another, amongst many others.

However, many perpetrators of this act were not able to be established or found timely. This became a concern for Nigerians to question the significance of the NIN with the data of every Nigerian.

Disgruntled with the queue, technical issues

In 2023, Olaitan Matthias concluded plans to have his NIN registration as part of the requirement to apply for an online application outside the country.

The process, according to him, took a long time to rectify due to the technical issues of the system.

“I visited the Edo state registration centre to get it done. However, after spending hours in line, I was told there was a technical glitch,” he said.

With the aspiration that it would be resolved as soon as possible, his hope was dashed after finding out there was an error in his name that was wrongly inserted.

This became a concern for him, and he began to think of financial assistance to rectify the error.

He berated the long queue, technical glitches with the registration system, and a lack of clear information on required documentation.

“I was so pained because I had spent time and resources all through before I was able to get it done eventually. I was only happy I was able to meet up with what I wanted to apply it to,” he added.

Lack of NIN utilisation by security operatives is problematic – Pantami

Pantami, in January 2024, while responding to an inquiry about why Nigerians queued up to secure NIN and could not be utilised when needed, blamed the lack of NIN utilisation on security operatives in the country for not making effective use of the NIN-SIM policy.

“NIN-SIM policy has been working. However, the relevant institutions fighting criminality are to be requested to ensure they utilise it effectively when a crime is committed. Lack of utilisation is the problem, not the policy. While in office, I know three instances where the policy was utilised, and it led to the success of their operations,” he said.

Pantami disclosed on May 25, 2023, on his X handle that only 39 million Nigerians enrolled in NIN between 2007 and October 2020. However, Pantami applauded himself for the success recorded in the enrolment of the NIN between two years and seven months.

“@ProfIsaPantami was directed to supervise from October 2020 to May 2023, which is 2 years and 7 months. The enrollment increased by more than 61 million. Now, there are over 100 million citizens in the database,” he posted.

Information about Nigerians can be retrieved within two hours

According to the former minister, the Nigeria Police Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, on April 27, 2023, said information about every Nigerian can be retrieved within two hours by the Force.

“Many here think they are untraceable. Very funny. I can give the details of every handle here within 2 hours. But we need to relate well with people to get close to them, and we should know that there are laws guiding our posts, publications, comments, etc. online,” Adejobi said while responding to an X user who alleged the former inspector general of police, Usman Alkali Baba, of being corrupt.

However, when contacted by our correspondent in April 2024 to ask if the Force has been maintaining such tempo and how criminals have been apprehended through the utilisation of the NIN, the Force PRO did not return calls or attend to texts sent.

Despite Nigeria’s 33.2 percent inflation rate, FG announces implementing a new multipurpose national ID

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the nation’s inflation rate in March 2024 jumped to 33.20 percent compared to the headline inflation rate in February 2024, which was 31.70 percent.

“Looking at the movement, the March 2024 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 1.50 percent points when compared to the February 2024 headline inflation rate,” the agency stated.

“On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 11.16 percent higher compared to the rate recorded in March 2023, which was 22.04 percent.

“On a month-on-month basis, the headline inflation rate in March 2024 was 3.02 percent, which was 0.10 percent lower than the rate recorded in February 2024 (3.12 percent). This means that in March 2024, the rate of increase in the average price level is less than the rate of increase in the average price level in February 2024.”

According to the NBS, the inflation followed the increase in Nigeria’s interest rate from 22.75 percent to 24.75 percent by the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Despite the inflation rate and financial burden on the nation, the federal government, through the NIMC, announced on April 5, 2024, the introduction of a new multipurpose national identity card that would provide payment capability for all social and financial services.

The new initiative, according to the federal government, is a collaboration between the NIMC, the CBN, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System.

“This card will not only serve as a means of physical identification but will also grant holders access to government and private social services, facilitate financial inclusion, and empower citizens to participate more actively in nation-building,” it said.

NIMC stated that this feature is expected to provide vital financial access to Nigerians who were previously excluded from mainstream banking and financial services.

A key feature of the identity, according to the commission, is that the machine-readable zone conforms with ICAO standards for e-passport information.

Additional features include travel, health insurance information, microloans, agriculture, food stamps, transport, energy subsidies, and more.

“Offline capability that allows transactions in areas with limited network coverage or zero infrastructure connectivity, and functionality as a debit and prepaid card catering to both banked and unbanked individuals,” it stated.

Over N80bn was allocated to NIMC in three years

Between 2021 and 2024, the sum of N89,757,681,651 was allocated for NIMC under the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy.

A check by our correspondent into the nation’s budget saw that N3,638,619,282 and 5,083,672,183 were budgeted for the ministry in 2019 and 2020, respectively, as capital expenditures.

In 2021, the sum of N7,417,388,441 was budgeted as capital expenditure for NIMC, while N12,850,659,251 was approved as a total allocation.

Findings by BusinessDay Investigations further showed that the capital expenditure of NIMC in 2022 was N46,533,428,178 with a total allocation of N52,761,598,360.

The ministry’s capital expenditure and total allocation for the year 2022 were 85,097,358,543 and 86,369,106,211, respectively.

In 2023, the sum of N2,899,078,983 was allocated as capital expenditure and N4,315,355,516 as total expenditure for the ministry.

In the same year, as seen in the budget, 10,134,770,333 and 24,145,430,040 were earmarked for NIMC’s capital expenditure and total allocation, respectively.

Furthermore, in 2024, while the ministry budget for capital expenditure was pegged at 289,290,504, its total allocation was 5,083,‪396.501‬.

In all of these, the amount disbursed to the ministry and the NIMC agency could not be ascertained.

However, the budget of NIMC could not be traced on the signed or approved budget, but on the Appropriation Bill, NIMC capital expenditure is N9,840,053,026 while allocation is N22,712,877,325.

Experts speak

Speaking, a public affairs analyst, Ayo Agusto, opined that the new initiative multipurpose card is not a new form of registration and would serve as a means of identity, as well as putting together all other forms of national identities.

“It can help to synchronise all those already existing because you realise that for some people, the reason they are getting drivers licence is not that they want to drive a car but primarily to have something that they can use to identify themselves,” he said.

He, however, expressed that the government communicates well about what it wants to achieve and even the process of doing it right.

“I wouldn’t envisage a situation where everyone would start queuing just like the NIN,” he said.

Reacting to the effect of the new initiative on the economy, Agusto noted that the government needs to communicate its plan for it and the volume of production.

He further calls on the government to sensitise the people to the need to have it.

Also, Professor Anthony Kila, in his reaction, described the initiative of the card as a good one if it substitutes all other national cards.

“We need to be very clear that the only justification this new card would have is if it’s there to substitute for other cards. Having one card that can function as other cards is a basic idea.

“If it’s an additional card, it is a terrible idea,” he said while speaking with our correspondent in a separate interview.

Read also: NDPC investigates alleged Privacy Breach at NIMC

He backed Agusto, hoping the government would make the application a flexible process and that the government should do everything to avoid long queues.

“Let us hope you’re not going to see it crowded, just like the NIN.

“It has to be something you can do online by yourself or go somewhere to do it.

“People should be spending their time learning, trading, working, and acting productively, not queuing for bureaucratic things.”

In other ways, it is different from that and would make Nigerians go through stressful processes, which he labels as a waste of time and productive resources.

He advised the government to ensure the card is at no cost and come up with a clear point of how it would benefit the economy and Nigerians.

“I think for the card to be conceived and approved as a good intention, the initiatives of the card need to by themselves quantify what the advantage is.

“It must be at no cost, and the government must show us how the card would make the economy and lives better,” he advised.