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NIN: COVID-19 pandemic and registration centres

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NIN, COVID-19

By Inwalomhe Donald

IAM worried over the hypocritical compliance of enrollees and Nigeria Identity Management Commission, NIMC, officials with the COVID-19 protocols and the regular loss of several man-hours just to get registered. The crowd does not observe social distancing or use of masks; enrollees only use masks when NIMC officials are about to attend to them.

I am worried over lack of protective kits at the office; this is because NIMC staff could get infected with COVID-19 as they attend to hundreds of residents daily. We must put health and safety into consideration because COVID-19 is real.

COVID-19 is not a glamorous disease, neither is it a hoax. You need to follow the safety guidelines to safeguard your friends and loved ones. NIMC offices nationwide are bracing up for a deluge of enrollees soon following the suspension of the strike action embarked upon by staff of the commission.

NIMC staff had two weeks ago embarked on the strike over what they described as exposure to risks of COVID-19, among other demands. Before the suspension of the strike, many Nigerians had expressed frustration while trying to get enrolled for their NIN, just as some alleged that they were asked by NIMC staff for financial inducement before they could be registered.

I don’t know the reason behind this call for registration at this odd period of coronavirus pandemic. But I am appealling to President Muhammadu Buhari to use a website or data digital identity platforms to capture sensitive data about citizens to decongest registration centres. As a harmonised identity ecosystem becomes more tightly coupled, or takes the form of a single warehouse, data about citizens gets clustered.

The risks associated with information security and privacy thus become higher in case information is misused or exploited. Strong legal safeguards are necessary to mitigate the risks associated with data security and privacy.

In Nigeria, at present, several government agencies issue identity credentials to residents for specific uses. NIMC leads the identity agenda of Nigeria, and offers a “foundational identity” or an “official identity”.

Over the years, several government agencies have rolled out their “functional identity” programmes. Currently, there is little or no interoperability across these identity systems, while the degree and nature of technology used in these identity systems vary. Currently, no identity system has fully reached the scale to serve the masses in Nigeria.

NIMC Act: The vision of NIMC is to establish and regulate a reliable and sustainable system of national identity management that enables a citizen or legal resident to assert his or her identity. NIMC is working to achieve this vision by creating and managing a secure national identity database, setting and maintaining identification standards, and issuing an identity token and a secure means to irrefutably confirm the identity of an individual. There is need to establish more registration centres for Nigerians in this period of COVID-19 pandemic.

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Enrolment capacity: NIMC operates 404 enrolment centres nationwide in Nigeria, with support of 2,500 enrolment staff, covering 332 of 774 LGAs. NIMC has enrolment centres in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and in 34 states out of 36 states. In the states of Yobe and Borno,

NIMC has not set up enrolment centres due to a prevailing security situation. In the FCT, NIMC has also deployed mobile units for conducting enrolments in the form of buses equipped with enrolment stations. At each enrolment centre, NIMC operates multiple enrolment stations.

Each enrolment station consists of technology systems to capture biometric information (fingerprints and facial picture; with upcoming iris) of people, and computers to record information electronically using a locally developed enrolment software.

An online pre-enrolment portal is offered to encourage demographic data to be entered in advance to reduce the time spent at enrolment centres. Over 2,500 enrolment systems (i.e., computers, biometric terminals, etc.) are being used across the country.

All enrolment systems are connected to a web application server located at a data centre in Abuja. Currently, NIMC reports a capacity of issuing 100,000 NINs per week. NIMC is additionally working with NHIS to give access to data in helping establish the functional identity system of NHIS. NHIS is supplying 5,000 units of mobile enrolment kits, in two separate batches, to allow NIMC to populate the national identity database.

NHIS plans to provide staff and space in offices nationwide for enrolment to happen. The collaboration would create extra enrolment centres for the NIMS. NIMC plans to increase the number of enrolment stations to 13,800 and capacity to more than 1,000,000 per day so that enrolment of all Nigerian citizens can be completed within three years. To improve the accuracy of de-duplication, NIMC plans to collect iris information.

NIMC must create more centres for the enrollment for National Identity Number, NIN, after a two-day strike by staff. It is good to know that NIMC has gladly informed the general public that normal enrolment services for NIN have been fully restored at all its offices nationwide as the glitches experienced since January 6, 2021 have been sorted out.

Enrolment services were temporarily disrupted when the local chapter of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASSN, of NIMC embarked on an industrial action on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 immediately after its congress.

Nigeria is not the only country where national identity number is mandated. In other African countries, citizens are required to have their information with the National Identity Authority, NIA. Although the process of registration is almost the same in Nigeria, where people go to registration centres to have their information manually inputted on a computer by an official, but the process is less rigid in other countries.

Donald, a social commentator, wrote via inwalomhe.donald@yahoo.com

Vanguard News Nigeria

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