By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
LAST Thursday, President Jonathan launched the National electronic Identification Card. The national ID Card project has been one of the most scandalous avenues of heist in Nigeria for decades. In cahoots with all kinds of crooked foreign businessmen, members of the Nigerian political elite have exploited the absolutely necessary need for a national identification system to fleece Nigeria of billions of dollars.
The project has been a bottomless pit of theft without anything more than often perfunctory efforts at prosecution followed by a simulated official forgetfulness as a new round of effort is made to exhume the project, and as sure as the planets revolve round the sun, the same process of heist is repeated. It has always looked like the effort at instituting a national identification project was doomed.
It was like project that took the dead-on-arrival trip to the mortuary of the Nigerian public space. With the national identification project, the Nigerian maiden was the ultimate object of serial rape in the hands of the nation’s ruling class!
Well, it seemed things were looking like they would take a new turn, under Goodluck Jonathan. As envisaged under the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, in October 2013, a National Identification Number was launched, as a single reference to manage and authenticate our identity.
The eID Card launched last week was in fact a pilot project and at that phase, 13 million Nigerians are to be issued with cards with electronic payment functionality, before extension to all the 165million Nigerians. Central to the project is a plan to integrate and harmonize all identity databases including the driver’s license, voter registration, health insurance, tax, SIM and the National Pension Commission into a single, shared services platform.
According to the DG of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Chris Onyemenam: “The National eID programme enables us to create an optimized common platform for Nigerian citizens to easily interact with the various government agencies and to transact electronically. There are many use cases for the card, including the potential to use it as an international travel document, which will have significant implications for border control in Nigeria and West Africa”. President Goodluck even saw the card as a window to a social security benefit system for the country. These seem lofty, but as the saying goes, the devil is in the detail.
This new eID, is ostensibly a Nigerian project of identity, but is actually designed to carry the logo of the American payment company, MASTERCARD! It is collaborating with NIMC, Unified Paymaent Services Limited (payment processor), Cryptovision (public key infrastructure and trust services provider) and Access Bank Plc, in a monumental project, with serious security implications as well as potential dangers for national sovereignty, through the opening up of our national identity management database to a foreign-owned company, MASTERCARD.
And to show just how low the Jonathan administration is prepared to pull our country, this darned eID Card carries MASTERCARD’s logo! A project that should make its designers hide their heads in shame is trumpeted as a national triumph.
At the close of the National Conference, 2014, we were lined up to take facial pictures and iris as well as do biometric data recordings of 10 fingerprints for a card that could end giving all our records to a company that has no allegiance to our country. MASTERCARD obviously feels elated at the access it was willingly given in the Nigerian eID project; the Divisional President for sub-Saharan Africa, Daniel Monehin, effusively responded: “This is a memorable occasion for MasterCard as we witness the start of a financial inclusion program that is unprecedented in scale and scope”. Naturally enough, Daniel Monehin did not mention any potential accesses to Nigeria’s database.
And I think that is the main issue. Other countries have made a similar effort in the past to create projects such as the Nigerian eID. For example, Malaysia created a GMPC system that was not tied to any payment system.
Malaysians exuded great patriotic pride as a result of the fact that no foreign entity or personnel was involved in their national system all through its implementation. That way, they were able to preserve the integrity of their national system. That is how those driven by a patriotic commitment think, behave and deliver.
In Nigeria, central to official thinking is a slave mentality. There is a groveling “House Nigger” mentality amongst those who rule us; and for them, anything American is always what they hanker for! That was why Goodluck Jonathan’s response to the allegation that $20Billion was missing, was that it was America’s money and they will know if it was missing.
It was the same mentality of the slave that drove the late Umaru Yar’adua to declare a visit to the American White House during the administration of the war criminal, George W. Bush, as the greatest event of his life! It was this Slave Mentality, coupled with the greed of the private sector sharks that have successfully captured the Jonathan administration that made them willfully tie our eID Card to MASTERCARD. They shamelessly then decided that the logo should carry the MASTERCARD logo.
They might very well be slaves; “House Niggers” and “Uncle Toms”; but most of us are NOT slaves! We are not enamoured of imperialism and its financial colonization of the world. We think a national eID Card is a marvelous project to be welcomed and supported; but we REJECT the inclusion of MASTERCARD’s logo on Nigeria’s eID Card. Those behind that harebrained idea should purge themselves of their contemptuous disregard for national security and sovereignty. They should drop the MASTERCARD logo from Nigeria’s eID Card IMMEDIATELY!
Even as they move to remove their disgraceful MASTERCARD logo, it is important to ask other pertinent questions about the project. How were the vendors for the project chosen and awarded the contracts (NXP got the chip cards; Acolyte the card lifecycle, Datacard for printing machine, and so on)? Was there strict adherence with the Public Procurement Act? What about Sections 15, 39b and 42f of the PPA in respect of National Defense or National Security procurement, including Section 49’s criteria for evaluating proposals with defense and national security implications? Is it a coincidence that Chris Onyemenam, the DG of NIMC is a banker from Zenith Bank (he used to be an AGM at the Zenith Bank), one of the business partners of MASTERCARD in Nigeria?
Would it not be much better if the National Assembly can at least examine the details of this project especially the implications for national security and sovereignty, of the ridiculous decision to tie the National eID card to MASTERCARD? We are waiting for the patriots to stand up for Nigeria, before an alliance of irresponsible public officials and private businessmen with an eye for dollar profit, reduce us to their despicably unpatriotic levels!
Governor Kashim Shettima @48
ON Tuesday, September 2nd, Kashim Shettima, the Borno state Governor turned 48. It is indicative of the disturbed tenure that he has dealt with since coming to power in 2011, that on the night of his birthday, he was in fact cutting short a trip to return to his troubled state. From the weekend, Nigerian security forces were engaged in very bloody battle with the Boko Haram insurgents attempting to capture Bama, Borno’s second largest town.
Maiduguri, the state capital, is bursting at the seams because of the influx of refugees from all areas of the state that have been suffering the scorched earth tactics of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Kashim Shettima came into power in one of the most disturbed, certainly most tragic phases, in the thousand year history of Borno. And these are times indeed that will test the faith, tenacity, staying power and leadership acumen of any individual. And because I have had the privilege of watching at close quarters as well as having extensive discussions with Governor Shettima, I can report that he has endeavoured to remain as strong as the situation in contemporary Borno demands.
Kashim Shettima has knowingly risked his own life to visit many of the communities in the state where people have been at the receiving end of Boko Haram attacks. His administration has been forced to face the resource-wasting attacks by endeavours to rebuild communities or rehabilitating people. His constant travels around the state, even with the inherent danger to his person he explained to me once, was to give people hope that in their suffering, the leadership they elected, has not abandoned them.
To give hope in a season of killings and destruction is a very central part of his leadership philosophy. And it is encouraging that he has not lost focus about the ultimate imperative of delivering a good life to the people of Borno. Governor Shettima, an agricultural economist himself, is particularly focused on the role of agriculture in the development of the state and his administration has invested heavily in the procurement of intermediate agricultural technologies that can help thousands of farming families to improve productivity.
Hundreds of young people are being trained in various aspects of agricultural developments, including fisheries. Education is also seen as central to the transformation of Borno and daily school meals have been introduced to encourage and keep children in schools, plus school buses that convey them to and fro, while school infrastructure is being radically remodeled.
Empowerment projects are also being pursued for the people. At the personal level, is the consistent effort at improving his own mind with the acquisition of knowledge. The governor reads! And that makes a lot of difference in the man’s attitude to life; his ability to understand his brief and the fact that his very cultivated mind has purged him of the delusional propensities so much at the heart of leadership in our country.
I also know that a lot of times Governor Kashim Shettima can be affected by the enormity of the crisis which the Boko Haram insurgency has wrought on society. And when we have spoken, I was wont to reminding him that in such periods, it was important to remember the history of Borno and the cycles of crest and trough associated with the development of civilizations.
This is because even this moment of crisis will pass! Kashim Shettima is one of the more impressive examples of leadership in our country today, and the crisis in his state has only enhanced his leadership qualities showing how important it is, to have the right temperament in a season of killings. A Happy 48th Birthday to my friend and brother: Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno state.