By YINKA KOLAWOLE
The partnership agreement between MasterCard Incorporated and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for the roll out of national identity cards in the country will enhance financial inclusion and boost the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Vice President & Area Business Head West Africa, MasterCard, Omokehinde Ojomuyide, speaking at a media roundtable in Lagos, said that when the project becomes fully operational, it will be the largest financial inclusion project in Africa, adding that the company is providing pre-paid card payment technology on worldwide network, and m/chip 4 standards with EMV technology for security of the National ID cards.
“MasterCard is providing brand mark to guarantee acceptance of the cards as a payment instrument in 210 countries across the world, at over 35 million merchant locations and over 2 million ATMs.” She noted that the card will be available to every registered Nigerian citizens who are 16 years old and above, and enable holders make payments without having bank accounts. “The National ID card is pre-paid. You don’t have to own a bank account to use the cards to make payment, only need to load the cards,”she added.
Ojomuyide remarked that the use of card payment technology reduces cost of cash transactions, which according to her, ranges between 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product of many coutries. These, she noted, include costs of currency printing and distribution, security and handling, as well as lost time associated with queuing to withdraw cash.
She also noted that social costs associated with corruption and other vices such as robbery, terrorism financing and kidnapping are facilitated huge cash transactions. All these she asserted would be addressed by the use of the pre-paid national ID cards, noting that the project will reduce the number of the unbanked and under-banked in the country, as well as reduce the costs associated with cash transactions. She further noted that the card can also minimize fraud because the integrated data base will serve as a form of credit registry, with all biometric data of holders captured.
According to her, the pilot phase of the project will commence before the end of the year with the issuance of 13 million MasterCard-branded national identity smart cards with electronic payment capability by the partner banks in the country. “All necessary protocols have been observed and the necessary technologies have been deployed for the issuers,” she said, adding that there are presently about 14 banks licensed to issue the cards while licensing procedures for other banks are ongoing, with the ultimate aim that all banks in the country will be able to issue the cards.
Ojomuyide denied allegations that MasterCard had taken over the whole project thus usurping local content operations. She said that MasterCard is not involved in primary local content which are to be handled by Nigerian entities. These, according to her, include: biometric capture, card production, card personalisation, card issuing’float management’and transaction processing. Others are bimetric information storage and handling, biometric data validation, supply of biometric equipment and acceptance devices.