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Nigeria needs all hands on deck to achieve digital identity for all by 2030

With only about 38 million Nigerian citizens and legal residents registered into the database collection for National Identity Numbers (NIN), out of a population of almost 200 million, it is glaring that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), even after its intensified efforts to enroll as many people as possible, needs the help of professional API providers and independent verification platforms to achieve maximum effect and securely enable digital identity for all its citizens in compliance to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

The scheme which started at snail pace in 2014, recorded 38 million registered people in five years (November 2019), a remarkable increase in number from 30 million a year ago (November 2018) and an even more significant jump from the 21.36 million Nigerians successfully registered on the scheme in September of 2017. However, with an average of 7.6 million additional people registered per year, it means the NIMC would only be able to register another 83.6 million Nigerians by 2030, which would bring the total to 121.6 million. So, if no extra measure were taken, about 79 million Nigerians, excluding those that would be born between now and 2030, would still be off the NIMC database.

Considering the fact that countries are consciously moving to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.9 to provide legal identity for all, including free birth registrations by 2030, analysts say that collaborative commitment amongst all stakeholders is essential for Nigeria to achieve this goal.

Luckily for Nigeria, the country has a number established identity verification and management solution companies that are competent to take on the responsibility of providing data verification services to assist the NIMC in achieving the global goal.

Stakeholders are of the view that if the National Identity System is conducted properly with the help of trusted private data companies and is well syncronised with other data collected by other government organisations, the lack of adequate funds to issue identity cards could easily be ignored, and the National Identity Database could help government planning, policy and budget allocation for the various economic sectors, age groups, gender, religion, geographic location, weather and other strategic considerations.

Chimezie Emewulu, managing director of Seamfix, an indigenous provider of an identity management solution called Bioregstra, a state of the art KYC (Know Your Customer) service online platform developed primarily for individuals and corporate (business owners) with the aim of ensuring that they are able to capture data, store the data, and have access to the data whenever it is needed, told BusinessDay that solutions like this will in no small way, help the Federal Government in the capture and management of citizen data to create legal digital identity for all.

“With BioRegistra, the difficulty associated with knowing and identifying your customers will be a thing of the past. The platform enables you to capture and store your customer KYC details or information and further allows you access and to view the captured information or data whenever required. Your customer in this context is not limited to any sector.”

Emewulu further highlighted some of the benefits of the solution and the competitive advantage saying that; “BioRegistra system has an intelligent quarantine engine designed to detect fraudulent and fictitious records and prevents them from being processed by running the records through security and inbuilt validation checks.”

Aliyu Aziz, director general of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) recently declared that the country will indeed need the collaborative commitment of all stakeholders to create legal identity for all in the next ten years.

“We are aware that identification plays an important role in enabling the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations, which demands that nations provide legal identity for all including birth registration by the year 2030, so as to enable social protection, right to economic resources, land and property and universal health coverage,” he said.

In September 2018, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the immediate commencement of the implementation of a strategic roadmap for digital identity ecosystem in Nigeria, a step that aimed to further boost enrolment across the country.

The Federal Government empowered organisations like the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), and Nigeria Immigration Services to make NIN a mandatory requirement for service delivery. Also, telecoms operators will soon require NIN for SIM card registration, and others are expected to follows suit.

Aziz says the provision of digital identity to everyone in the country is critical to accessing services both physically and electronically.

As in the case of the United Kingdom, with the National Insurance Number and the Social security number in the United States America, registered Nigerians with NIN will be able to access government social interventions, credit facilities, and health care systems and will also promote socio-economic and political development. This is because every single individual would be accounted for through the database, entitlements will be rightly issued out and issues of identity theft will be curbed with the use of a unique identification number.

Economic analysts say the recent dedication to citizen registration by the NIMC poses a ray of hope for a boost in Nigeria’s economy in the future, as the absence of unique identity numbers for every citizen in Nigeria may have been a contributory factor to the underdevelopment of certain services and industries in the country.

“The growth of consumer credit may have been stymied by the absence of a unique means of identification of all citizens, which in turn created room for high rate of delinquency of consumers and lenders unwillingness to advance credit to individuals without tangible collateral,” Johnson Chukwu, MD/CEO of Cowry Asset Management Limited told BusinessDay.

However, stakeholders call on the Federal Government to be cautious in collaborating with innovative companies that claim to be able to securely verify identification and collect data.

“Technology can be overwhelming, and in an environment where effective surveillance is easily given up in order to stretch lean budgets, avoidable slips are not uncommon.”

 

Jumoke Akiyode-Lawanson

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