Nigeria Mulls Digital Identification

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All over the world, the provision of digital identity is increasingly viewed as a key mechanism for driving national development goals. As more people, devices and personal information get online, the ability to prove we are who we say we are and establish trust with one another becomes a matter of urgent necessity.

Moving with the tides of time, Nigeria as a country, is seeking to use efficient ways to deploy national identity trust systems not only to deliver government services in areas such as social welfare, taxes, voting, health administration, security, and education but also to build an indigenous digital economy that will stimulate the private sector and make it thrive.

The Federal Government believes that with an efficient, secure, accessible, and reliable national identity infrastructure it can empower Nigerians to exercise their rights and responsibilities fairly and equitably, thereby driving social inclusion.

The above was the crux of deliberations as Nigeria marked the third National Identity Day 2021 with the theme – ‘Identity, a tool for sustainable digital economy and national security’ organized by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, in Abuja.

Declaring the meeting open, President Muhammadu Buhari underscored the importance of a centralized database to help the nation plan its developmental activities as well as tackle its incessant challenge of insecurity.

He said a digital identity was absolutistic to the success of Nigeria’s digital economy growth which is a prerequisite for the national economy, stressing that it would equally increase the confidentiality of citizens on their ID numbers.

Represented by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, Buhari said it would also help the nation in getting its security infrastructure right.

He restated that the nation was working towards having a national identity database and directed all government data and biometrics collating agencies to harmonise their data collation before the end of 2023, saying he was targeting to achieve a central database for the country before the end of his second tenure in 2023.

“I am seizing this opportunity to invite, and I urge all functional data providing agencies of government, as well as all government institutions offering services to harness resources, harmonize and align their operations with NIMC. The National Identity Management System (NIMS) must, now more than ever before be accorded the serious attention it deserves and be accelerated with a view to expanding enrolment points, strengthening of the National Identity Management System (NIMS) infrastructure, ensuring compliance with the requirement for the mandatory use of the NIN for access to services and the authentication and verification of identity.

‘‘Immediately it is concluded, then it will no longer be difficult to fix any challenge being confronted by Nigeria. If we have a complete database, it is that data we use for national planning and this will help government to take critical decision on education, health, agriculture. It is because of this Mr. President has directed the National Population Commission, NPC to join hands together with NIMC to ensure they establish a complete data that will guide government when it comes to national planning, budget security and many more,’’ he said.

Represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Engr. Bitrus Nabasu, Pantami, in his own remarks, described the national identity number (NIN) as a public good which is vital for driving development.

He pointed out that identity management had evolved across the globe and that the ability to prove one’s identity with the NIN was critical for Nigerians to participate in economic, social, and political life.

“The NIN is our digital ID that creates a foundation of trust that not only ties all records about an individual uniquely in the NIDB, but also, it is the primary identifier used to establish or verify an identity. Nigerians of all ages, including legal residents are eligible to get enrolled and be assigned with a NIN. With it, an individual can prove and assert his or her identity in an instantaneous, electronic, paperless manner, anytime or anywhere, and by extension enable government to administer its programs ranging from health, education, security, welfare etc with accountability and transparency,” he said.

The minister expressed the high expectations on NIMC as the key government institution and apex body charged with fostering an orderly development of the identity management sector in Nigeria, urging the NIMC to redouble its efforts and intensify its regulatory role.

Describing the theme of this years ID Day as very apt and timely, Pantami said the country affirmed government’s promise to support the development of digital identification each year the country celebrates the day.

According to him, the purpose of the ID Day is to raise and promote awareness and actions on the important role identity plays in empowering individuals and enhancing their access to services and the formal economy.

Earlier in his remarks, the director-general of NIMC, Engr. Aliyu Aziz said the commission engaged over 200 private and public partner organizations for data capture services with over 8000 registration centres nationwide.

He said these partners had captured and generated over 20 million NIN in the past nine months resulting in over 63 million unique NINs in the National Identity Database, adding the agency also executed financing agreements with the three development partners, namely the World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD) and European Investment Bank (EIB), among others.

He averred that without proper identity, people are excluded from basic services that provide foundation for support.

“A nation cannot truly be a sovereign state if it does not know its people or have a unique way to identify them. Government’s knowledge of its people (citizens and residents) is fundamental to planning, governance, fiscal management, accountability, security, etc.

“Establishing a foundational ID is the first step to empowering people and facilitating access to basic government services, civil registration and vital statistics system and the National Identity Management System have been designated as the foundational IDs in Nigeria,” he added.

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