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Nigerians Express Frustration Over National Identity Card-NIN

Years after the launch of Nigeria’s national electronic identity card, the project has remained unimpressive. It has suffered several afflictions ranging from paucity of registration centres to lack of equipment and manpower. There has also been an unusual delay in issuing the electronic cards to those who have managed to enrol.

Following the massive outcry that trailed the commission’s poor performance, it has opted for strategic collaboration towards accelerating the delivery.

National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Director General, Mr. Aliyu Aziz, said the commission wants submission of Expression of Interest (EOI) for provision of data and issuance of National Identification Number (NIN). Aziz said the commission was desirous of partnering with interested, competent and qualified public and private sector service providers for delivery of data capture to citizens and legal residents.

Recounting his disappointment with the project, former national youth leader, KOWA party, Jude Feranmi said: How can a country which claims to be ready for business or development spend 40 years providing ID cards to 37 million Nigerians when it took India only nine years to register 1.22 billion people?”

Feranmi said that no country would take Nigeria seriously when it comes to doing business.

The leaders of any serious country ready for development will understand that the first step towards any meaningful policy or development programme is identification of its citizens.

It is clear that Nigerian leaders have refused to understand the importance of this towards development since 1978. It is therefore unsurprising that Nigeria has continued down the path of poverty, he said.

A trader at Alaba Market, Lagos, Mr. Peter Oforkansi said he had sleepless nights for several weeks before he could be captured for the NIN at the Ojo Local Government Area, Lagos. He said: I was only given a paper and was told that a message would be sent to me when the electronic card was ready. It is over a year now.

Several times, I could not be captured because of the long list of names and crowd. As at that time, they had only two computers and two operators – one of them was even a youth corps member. They either complain of not having Internet network or not having electric power. They never attended to more than 20 persons in a day. I later found out that most of the names were fictitious. The touts deliberately fill in the names and when you bribe them, they will give you the space. Out of frustration, people go through the touts in other to be captured.

Ignatius Eke called on the authorities to intervene in the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) pre-enrolment process. For weeks now, I have been frustrated in the process of trying to register in the NIMC websites.He said the sites, which were provided for pre-registration, were fraught with errors.

Maureen Effiong, a salesgirl at Igando Lagos, as well as student, Paschal said the physical enrolment also complained about the challenges of the scheme.

NOIPolls, a country-specific polling service in the West African region, named after its creator, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI) in a poll released in October 21, 2019, made these key findings: “Ninety per cent of Nigerians mentioned that they acknowledged the need and importance of having a national identity and this assertion cuts across gender, geo-political zones and age-group. Seventy-eight per cent of the respondents (18 years and above) said that they have applied to obtain the national identity card. Out of the 78 per cent who applied, 65 per cent claimed to have a temporary card, while 26 per cent specified that they have obtained the permanent card. Most of the respondents in this category had to wait for a long period of time before getting the permanent version; sometimes above one year.

In terms of improving the process involved in registration and collection of the national identity, a larger proportion of Nigerians recommended that more registration centres should be created, collection of the permanent card should be immediately after registration and 7 per cent advised that the collection centres should be decentralized.

The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National identity database in Nigeria. It will register persons covered by the Act, assign a unique national identification number (NIN) and issue general multi-purpose cards (GMPC) to those who are citizens of Nigeria as well as others legally residing within the country. The new national e-identity card, which abolished the old one, is therefore a project of the NIMC.

The national identity card has multipurpose functions, including easy identification of an individual especially in cases of emergencies. It states and protects the legal status of every holder. Beyond easy identification, the national e-ID card has other functions which include serving as a tool to make payment for goods and services anywhere in the world; as a tool to authenticate a person by means of fingerprint; as a tool for applying electronic signature on contracts, applications etc. It also serves as a travel document for regional travel where visa is not required.

Aziz explained reasons for the delay experienced in getting the card. “The focus before was on the card but we have learnt from the United States, the United Kingdom and India that the focus should be on the number (national identification number). Therefore, we have gone back to the foundation and that is why the number grew to 36 million. So, our law says that we should also issue a general multipurpose card and that the first issuance should be free; that was in 2012. But because of the economic situation, we were unable to issue 36 million cards free. So, the focus is to emphasise on the number and allow the government agencies to accept the number and issue services. So far, the banks, Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Road Safety Commission, National Pension Commission and others accept the NIN to give you service and, therefore, reduce the pressure for the demand of the card.

In a suit filed in 2018 at the High Court of Anambra State (SUIT NO: 0/103/2018), the validity of the NIN Slip as a means of identification was tested. The plaintiff in the suit, a mobile telephone subscriber, had tendered her NIN Slip as a means of identification to the defendant, a mobile telecom operator in Nigeria, for the purposes of SIM-Swap/SIM replacement. The NIN Slip was rejected by the defendant on the ground that it was not a valid means of identification. Aggrieved by this decision, the plaintiff filed the suit and prayed the court to determine the issue of whether in view of the extant laws/regulations the NIN Slip is a valid and sufficient means of identification in Nigeria for the purposes of transactions including SIM-Swap or replacement?

In its response, the defendant contended that the NIN Slip was not a valid means of identification in Nigeria, having regards to relevant laws and regulations. In particular, it was argued that a subscriber is required to submit a valid photo identification for SIM replacement, as provided under the Nigerian Communications Commission’s guidelines on SIM replacement (NCC Guidelines) and that the NIN slip is not included in the interpretation of photo identification in the NCC Guidelines.

In resolving the issue in favour of the plaintiff, the court on December 4, 2018 held that the NCC guidelines do not contain an exhaustive list of items qualified as photo identification and is also inferior to the NIMC Act being a subsidiary legislation. Further, it held that by the provisions of section 27 and other relevant sections of the NIMC Act, what is required to be provided by a person to any authority or organization for the purposes of carrying out any transaction is the National Identity Card or the NIN. Thus, the production of the unique NIN is sufficient identification of an individual for the purposes of any transaction in Nigeria and consequently, the NIN Slip issued temporarily in lieu of the National Identity Card is valid photo identification.

A partner at Banwo & Ighodalo law firm, Isa Alade explained the legal significance of the Act. He said: As provided in the NIMC Act, registration and procurement of a National Identity Card is compulsory for all persons in Nigeria. In this regard, there are no age restrictions. Hence, any person born in Nigeria since the introduction of the NIN is required to be registered within sixty (60) days of his/her birth, or at any time after this period not exceeding one hundred and eighty (180) days, or any other period as the NIMC may specify from time to time. For Nigerian citizens born outside the country, the NIMC Act does not specify a time frame within which they are to register and obtain the NIN but it should be noted that registration is also compulsory for this class. Hence, the NIMC has initiated the Diaspora Enrolment Programme and licensed some InfoTech companies who, working with foreign partners, are to carry out the enrolment of Nigerian adults and children in the Diaspora into the National Identity Database.

Alade explained that the framework for the enforcement of compliance with the requirement of the NIN was first developed in 2015.

The framework was reviewed by the NIMC in 2017, culminating in the release of the Mandatory Use of the National Identity Number Regulations, 2017 published in the official gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As provided in Section 4(1) of the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations, the NIMC is required to ensure strict compliance with the NIN requirement under the NIMC Act, NIN Mandatory Use Regulations and other regulations made pursuant to the NIMC Act, as well as Nigeria Biometrics Standards Regulations, 2017.

According to the NIMC DG, Aziz, the system wouldn’t know of the existence of those not enrolled, and such people would not be given service.

He said: If the government doesn’t give you service and security officers ask you for identity and you have nothing to show, then you are a suspect. You need the number to access financial services, health and educational services, among others. For travelling, land transactions and pension, you need that number. In the area of security, if you are in trouble and nobody knows who you are, no one will help you. So, the number is very important for every person. You enrol once and you are identified for life.

The commission announced that the renewal of the National Identity Card will cost N3, 000 and N5, 000 for card replacement.  A poll released by NOIPolls revealed that 80 per cent of Nigerians are opposed to the national identity card having an expiry date. Also, 72 per cent stated that they are not willing to pay N3, 000 for renewal, claiming the sum is too expensive. Some believe the card should be free of charge.

The Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) also wanted to make the National Identify Number a prerequisite for all prospective admission seekers to register for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. Coordinator of JAMB in Ondo State, Babatunde Bamisaye, who made the disclosure in Akure, the state capital, said the board would register only candidates with the NIN beginning from 2020. But the House of Representative asked the examinations board to suspend its plan until 2021 to allow more prospective candidates register and also to create more awareness.

The lawmakers commended JAMB for collaborating with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) while urging the commission to establish more centres to ease registration.

Zainab Gimba moved the motion for the suspension. She said the compulsory use of prospective candidates’ data from the NIMC’s database would remove the need for JAMB to capture the biometrics of candidates, thereby helping to curb multiple registrations and other forms of malpractices.

She said: The house is worried, however, that many prospective candidates from remote locations in the country might be unable to register for the UTME due to non-registration with the NIMC. The notice given by JAMB is too sudden and not sufficient to allow all prospective UTME candidates to be captured by the NIMC.

The house is also concerned that younger Nigerians and minors constitute the larger number of those yet to be captured by the NIMC mainly due to the prior registration criteria which captured persons aged 18 and above only. The house advised JAMB to establish a better collaboration with the NIMC, state and local governments for efficient and less-stressful registration of prospective candidates.

The National Identification Number (NIN) consists of 11 non-intelligible numbers which is randomly chosen and assigned to an individual after the completion of enrolment into the national identity Database (NIDB).

It consists of the recording of an individual’s demographic data and capture of the ten fingerprints, head-to-shoulder facial picture and digital signature, which are all used to cross-check existing data in the national identity database to confirm that there is no previous entry of the same data.

Supporting documents for enrolment, it was gathered, include any of these: old national ID card, Driver’s Licence, Voter’s card (Temporary or Permanent), Nigerian International passport, Birth certificate, Declaration of age, Attestation letter from religious/traditional leader in the community, NHIS ID card, Government staff ID card, registered/recognized private organization staff identity card, school identity card, tax clearance certificate or valid immigration documents.

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