THE Federal Government’s decision to harmonise the highly proliferated biometric-based identity systems in the country is long over due. Nigeria lacks a centralised national database unlike other countries. Virtually all Federal agencies and private sector operators have their respective biometric data of citizens.
Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ag-SGF, Mrs Habiba Lawal, disclosed government’s resolve to harmonise the existing biometric systems. Towards achieving this, the Governing Board of the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, has been inaugurated. The nine-man Board has representatives from the military, the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, other government agencies and the private sector.
The Board is to harmonise the biometric data of Nigerians, including the Subscribers Identification Module, SIM, card registration handled by the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, the Bank Verification Number, BVN, the Driver’s Licence from the Federal Road Safety Commission, the Voters Card Number and others. This old order is neither cost-effective nor security-smart.
The NIMC is to come up with a more effective and innovative identity management system devoid of duplication. It is also to ensure that the remaining component of the National Identity Management System roll-out alignment and switchover by Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, through the harmonisation framework are successfully implemented. MDAs often justify duplication of biometrics on the slow speed of data collection.
By taking on this important task, the NIMC is finally coming around to assuming its rightful place in creating a credible identity system for all Nigerian citizens and residents in the country. The duplication of identity systems by virtually every public institution has been linked to corruption and yet it never achieved the desired purpose.
It is a national embarrassment that Nigeria lacks a centralised database which is crucial to national security. The absence of a unified database had given room for multiple registrations of voters, use of SIM cards for criminal activities and other related vices. Until recently, some Nigerians possessed multiple passports.
Nigerians still find it difficult to obtain driver’s licences that can be used to implement road safety. Unscrupulous citizens capitalise on the situation to breach security and commit crimes undetected. If the venture the NIMC has embarked upon succeeds the era when Nigerians groped in the dark about who was who will end. We look forward to a time when one identity card can tell a Nigerian apart from a foreigner, while those with criminal records or wanted persons can be nabbed without much ado.
We call on the Federal Government to fast-track the process to enable the Commission achieve its crucial task. The NIMC should emulate countries that have successfully established the identities of their citizens.