By Prince Osuagwu (Hi-Tech Editor)
Two years as Director General, National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, Engr. ALIYU ABUBAKAR AZIZ looks back at what has been achieved and lamented that but for poor funding and epileptic power supply, Nigerians would now be enjoying a promising digital national database and proud identity management system. He, however, sees hope if the government can act quickly to salvage the situation
You are two years in office, where is NIMC headed?
Well, the journey so far since I took over on the 23rd November, 2015, has been quite demanding and challenging. This is expected of a critical agency like NIMC, with the responsibility to interface with over 100 million Nigerians based on its mandate.
Fortunately however, I have been part of the system and quite familiar with all the work that has been put in over the years. So, it is a transition, so to speak.
Are there achievements you can refer to?
Without any doubt! We have populated the National Database from about seven million when I took over to over 24 million currently. With the figures growing daily and the renewed effort and engagement towards the acceptance of the National Identification Number as the most fundamental part of identity for citizens and residents, we are making progress.
Having retired in NIMC and later appointed DG, your goals must have been clear. Have you achieved them?
My immediate goal was to ramp up the records in the National Identity Database (NIDB) and deliver identity management services and their benefits to the people. I therefore placed emphasis on harmonisation and enrolment with a target of 70 million enrolments by December, 2016 and encouraged my staff to work towards that goal.
Today, we have made remarkable progress as the National Identification Number (NIN) in the database is over 24 million from the seven million it was in 2015. Although it doesn’t meet our initial target and expectation, it is a move in the right direction and signals increased efforts by all NIMC staff and stakeholders to achieving more in the days ahead.
What are the main challenges hampering the delivery of the NIMC mandate as quickly as possible?
One of the major challenges we face in the enrolment or registration of citizens is power. We require clean, constant power supply to run our enrolment centres and be able to enrol Nigerians as quickly as possible and populate the database.
We are also mindful that we have not achieved national coverage; we should be in every corner of the country, so that people can easily reach us to get the service. So efforts are being made to ensure that this is done, thus we are working to partner with and license participants who can help NIMC capture data and populate the database.
Another significant challenge is funding, which is no doubt a general problem considering the financial situation in the country and the Federal Government is doing everything within its power to ensure that the economic situation improves nationwide.
This issue of mandatory use of NIN for national services like the international passport?
Section 27 of the NIMC Act recognises the National Identification Number as the only unique identifier which must be presented by individuals for transactional purposes before services can be rendered.
We also have in place, a robust NIN verification and authentication platform through which the NIN can be verified and authenticated by government agencies or private institutions offering services or involved in transactions requiring the identity of an individual.
Also, we have about 809 enrolment centres nationwide, and nothing stops anyone who doesn’t have a NIN from entering any of these NIMC offices to obtain theirs before they go to the Immigration office for their International Passport.
So for Nigerians within Nigeria, there is no problem; it is only Nigerians in the diaspora that we will have problems with in the immediate future, because NIMC is yet to commence enrolment of Nigerians in the Diaspora..