Editorial

September 23, 2013

We Need Biometric Data Base

ANYONE who expects Nigerians to embrace more biometric data exercises does not understand the frustrations they entail on several fronts – time, money, long queues and waiting under inclement conditions.

Before the police’s Biometric Central Motor Registration, BCMR, organisations that had captured biometrics of Nigerians included:

·National Civic Registration Commission, national identity card in 2002

· Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, voter’s card since 2007

· Nigerian Immigration Service with the e-passport from 2007

· National Population Commission, 2006 census

· Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, the new driver’s licence

· National Communication Commission and telecommunications companies in 2010

· Banks have biometrics of their customers from 2010.

· Some States have begun biometric registration of residents

Nigerians are facing tremendous difficulties with these time consuming procedures. The huge public funds they guzzle and the attendant scandals since the national identity card project began in 1977 are enough reasons to oppose the BCMR.

Earlier biometric captures, with the exception of the e-passport, all failed. The telecommunications companies lose subscribers’ data and cut off their lines to force them to re-register. Nobody is in-charge of all the data collected, there is no central data bank. No law states how the data can be used.

The police need biometric data to work. They cling to Section 3(2-6) of the Road Traffic Cap 548 LFN, 1990 which mandates the Inspector General of Police to maintain Central Motor Registry of all vehicles issued under Traffic Act as the enabling law for BCMR.

Public angst with BCMR does not question its usefulness, though in the hands of ill-equipped police personnel, the results are predictable. It is even doubtful if the police have the capacity to collect the data.

The public wants the police to use existing data. Police’s cooperation with other agencies is important for effective security. Biometric data capture exercises have serious security implications that should bother the police. They expose individuals to cybercrimes. If more people have access to the data, the chances that the data could be abused would increase. Claims that the BMCR would be used to fight crimes are vacuous. The police are capturing only vehicle owners, possibly less than one per cent of the population. If criminals operate with stolen vehicles or by foot, or motor boats or aircraft would the police have their biometrics?

Nigeria needs an integrated national biometric data base. Agencies that have conducted biometric data capturing, would feed the base. Duplication of effort, as all the agencies are doing, is wasteful, and favours criminals.

The police do not seem to understand that to fight criminals, they need more data than the narrow BCMR platform provides. The data are authenticated and cheaper to acquire from agencies that have them.