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Digital security and Nigeria’s identity management system

Various studies have shown that for countries to make good economic progress and reduce insecurity, they must be able to develop a national identity management…

Various studies have shown that for countries to make good economic progress and reduce insecurity, they must be able to develop a national identity management system and also ensure its proper execution.

Though Nigeria has yet to fully embrace the application of identity management policy to the socio-economic and political life of its citizens, the country had taken a very bold step with its National Identity Number (NIN) policy.

The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, has the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria, register persons covered by the Act, assign a Unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to citizens of Nigeria as well as those legally residing in the country. The NIN has since proven to be a pivot to identity management for development, national security, planning and much more, according to NIMC.  

One of the major benefits of the NIN since it became a key element in Nigeria’s socio-economic space is to minimise or possibly eliminate multiple/ghost identities, thereby improving the effectiveness of service delivery systems across the economy, the Director General of NIMC, Engr Aliyu Aziz said.

Bandits and kidnappers’ reign

Though the NIN is getting entrenched in the Nigerian system, its impact on security isn’t too good. NIN’s impact on security challenges in Nigeria remains minute, despite efforts by the government to use it as one of the means to reduce insecurity.

Today, assaults by criminals on the public still remain huge. Bandits, kidnappers and terrorists, among other criminal elements in the society have remained emboldened, carrying out their nefarious activities without trace despite the NIN-SIM identity infrastructure.

In the bandits-prone North West part of the country, the federal government’s security regulations have been thwarted many times. Some residents of Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states who have had to recount their experiences in kidnappers’ dens, claimed they made the bandits’ telephone numbers available to security agents.

They, however, lamented that nothing was done to apprehend the criminals, thus making a mess of the federal government’s directives on the registration of telephone subscribers and the linkage of SIM with the NIN.

Besides, the digital footprints of electronic fraudsters are still very much everywhere in the country, the NIN seems not to be effective in this area.

Nonetheless, the NIN is having a big impact on other sectors of the economy like education, finance, health, transportation and so on. For instance, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) adopted NIN as a requirement for the University Matriculation Examination (UTME). According to JAMB, the introduction of the NIN in the 2021/2022 exam registration helped it to uncover over 500,000 fake candidates.

Similarly, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) had made NIN mandatory for registration for school certificate examination.

The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has also begun demanding for NIN from Nigerians before registering their vehicles. FRSC spokesman, Bisi Kazeem, said the decision follows a presidential directive.

“Beginning from the second quarter of this year (2021), if you want to register your vehicle, it is going to be compulsory for you to provide your NIN.

“This is part of the security checks. So once you provide your NIN, it makes the matter easier and helps the government in national planning, critical decision making and also enhances adequate intelligence gathering for the security of lives and properties.”

 My life was threatened over NIN, SIM registration – Pantami

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, has said that he received death threats over the implementation of the National Identity Number (NIN) and SIM registration in the country.

Pantami spoke at the fourth annual Identity Day commemoration, celebrated every September 16, organised by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in Abuja.

The minister, who lauded the growth recorded in the NIN registration exercise, said about 90 million Nigerians have been captured in the NIMC database so far.

“We can only get our digital economy right when we continue to improve and encourage our citizens to enroll in our national database. When we commenced the process, many people turned against me.

“My life was threatened because of the introduction of NIN and sim registration on BBC radio and many more and I resisted believing that nobody can control my life in this world, only Almighty God. We resisted and now the process is working.

“Sometimes, I can stay for one month without speaking to NIMC and there is no any problem. Today, most of our citizens that were fighting are now silent. Looking back from three years ago, the National Identity Management Commission had managed under challenging conditions, to achieve an enrolment figure of nearly 90 million enrollments for the country.

“By the time I took supervision of NIMC, the total number of registration centres was not up to 1,000 but today, we have over 50,000. Today our national database is on auto drive. We have established over 19 national policies and all of them are being implemented. This has never happened in the history of Nigeria,” the minister said.

Also, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, represented by the Head, Project Department, Mr. Philip Eretan, said that since the commencement of the SIM-NIN harmonisation exercise, over 158 million SIM users have submitted their NINs for linkage, representing about 76 per cent of the national subscriber base.

89m Nigerians captured on identity database

Aziz said the commission had so far captured 89 million persons in the ongoing nationwide National Identity Number (NIN) enrolment, as of September 15, 2022. 

Aziz, who said this in Abuja at a press conference in commemoration of the 4th Identity Day, added that this represents 82 million additions to the 7 million he met when he assumed office in November 2015.

The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Traditional Institutions as Critical Stakeholders for Citizens Mobilization’.

According to him, the Commission as part of activities to commemorate National ID Day is partnering with traditional institutions and their leaders to reach out to the grassroots people in the hinterland who have not been reached since the commencement of the NIN exercise.

“In this year’s ID commemoration, we are partnering with the traditional institutions and their leaders to create awareness on NIN enrolment. We have enrolled 89million people so far. This is an additional 82million to the 7 million we met in November 2015 when we came into office.

“Since then, we have been growing the database at an average of 2-3 million monthly. We are now enrolling people in villages, markets and others who have not been captured. We felt we cannot leave them behind and have to travel to where they are. ID is a tool for development and service delivery,” Aziz said.

According to him, in 2021, the NIMC introduced tokenisation to make enrolment easier for people.

He also said that this year the organisation wants to leverage traditional institutions to reach the grassroots and has started with people in the urban areas, thus remaining those in rural areas.

He said, “We are partnering with government agencies and international agencies like AFD, French Agency, CBN, ALTON, MTN and others who have been helping us.”

He urged the media to sustain the campaign of educating the populace on the hinterland, particularly in local languages.

Reacting to questions on the recent collapse of their data centre, Aliyu attributed the collapse to equipment upgrade and assured that the commission had acquired more equipment to improve on the enrolment exercise.

He also said that the commission had increased its equipment upgrade from 1000 to 29,000 nationwide, and advised new enrolled to always go with literate people to reduce errors in the process of their enrolment.

He promised that the commission would soon allow people to do independent modification of their data through the NIMC app as soon as they are through with the integration.

He, however, acknowledged that the commission charges some stipends for modification of biodata of enrollees, but reiterated that the enrolment is free for every citizen and legal residents.

He said that in his recent visit to Sokoto State, the Sultan advised the commission to include religious and traditional leaders in their enrolment exercise.

He noted that the United Nations (UN) had set a target of achieving identity for all persons by the year 2030 and that Nigeria is the first country to commemorate the ID Day since 2018.


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