By Tayo Oyetibo, SAN
The National Identity Number, NIN scheme has been in existence in Nigeria for a few years. However, not many Nigerians are aware of the benefits or uses of the NIN. This is about to change especially as it concerns Legal Practitioners in Nigeria. The National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, pursuant to the powers conferred on it by Section 27 (1) (L) and 31 of the National Identity Management Commission Act (the Act) recently issued new regulations which are referred to as the “Mandatory Use of the National Identity Number Regulations, 2017” (The Regulations) and which took effect from 26th October, 2017.
Under Part 1 of the Regulations, Regulation 1 (1) provides that in accordance with the provisions of section 27(1)(l) of the Act, the use of the National Identification Number, NIN is mandatory for the following additional transactions: registration for and provision and use of hospitality services; application for the adoption of an infant, child or person under applicable laws; purchase and registration of aircraft, ships, boats, motor vehicles and motorcycles; purchase of travel tickets or tokens for air, rail, road and water transportation; recruiting for temporary and permanent employment; acquisition, sale or transfer or transmission of shares, equities and other financial instruments; enrolment into primary, secondary and tertiary schools and continuous professional studies in Nigeria; operating a bank account, registration of companies, sole proprietorship, partnerships and non-profit organisations and other post-incorporation documentation with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Of particular interest to the legal profession and rendering of legal services is that the NIN is also mandatory for: the documentation of arrested and convicted persons; filing and registration of criminal and civil actions in courts or other arbitration processes; executing any contract or business agreement; tenancy agreements; obtaining and processing of probate documents. It is important to note that by the Regulations, Court is interpreted to mean Federal High Court. It is therefore left to be seen whether the Regulations apply in the State High Courts. Furthermore, Regulation 1(2) makes it compulsory for government agencies which perform functions mentioned above to require any person transacting with them to produce his NIN and verify and authenticate the person or NIN so provided in the National Identity database.
Part 2 of the Regulations covers the process for exercising the NIMC’s monitoring and enforcement powers. Regulation 5(2) empowers the NIMC to demand for evidence of compliance from persons, public or private institutions or organisations; caution a non-compliant person or entity in writing; sanction a non-compliant person or entity by the imposition of administrative fines and institute criminal proceedings against a non-compliant person or entity through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation or by instituting civil action against the defaulting person or entity.
The purpose of the NIN is to tie all records about an individual in the National Identity database and also to verify the identity of individuals. Once an NIN is issued to an individual, it cannot be re-issued to another, even though the bearer dies. However, taking into consideration the extensive changes being introduced as part of the NIN process, there remains the question of whether all of its objectives are entirely achievable in terms of implementation and enforcement.