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NIN and the ire of identity

In Nigeria, you have to identify yourself properly. Many times, when policemen go about picking up rough-looking teenagers who may be trouble in rowdy neighbourhoods,…

In Nigeria, you have to identify yourself properly. Many times, when policemen go about picking up rough-looking teenagers who may be trouble in rowdy neighbourhoods, an inability to flash an identity card can usually do one in, successfully masking the mercenary motives of the police in the first place.

In a world where data has become the new oil with painstaking efforts made across the globe every day to create a world where everyone counts, it will be irredeemably insulting for the Giant of Africa not to know the identity of its citizens as surely as a brooding hen knows the identity of her eggs. But alas, certainty has long abandoned the Giant of Africa.

The National Identity Management Commission was a creation of the National Identity Management Commission Act of 2007, which was essentially an attempt to manage national identity in Nigeria. The Commission was established to create, manage, maintain and operate a unified National Identity Database for Nigeria.

Sometime last year, confronted by an erupting volcano of security challenges, the federal government ordered telecommunication companies in the country to block all sim cards, which remained unlinked to the NIN. Public outcry after public outcry led to the postponement of doomsday until April 4  2022 when the  government ordered telcos to begin blocking unlinked sim cards. About  70 million subscribers were reportedly blocked within the first 48 hours.

There is no doubt that amid Nigeria`s boiling insecurity, the question of who is who within the borders of Nigeria has become more vital than ever. National security may be the preeminent consideration in building a national identity database but there are also immediate  concerns  about proper economic planning and adequate intelligence gathering  in a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on data.

The question of identity in Nigeria is a pressing one. It is in the interest of Nigerians that the identities of everyone within the borders of Nigeria be properly identified so that we can at least know the cobras that have made their way into the chicken coop.

By all means, let those who hoist their banners in the bush flash their own identity cards as citizens of Nigeria or lawful residents in the country or get booted out of the country as a matter of urgent national security.

We cannot continue to ascribe the mindless slaughter of Nigerians to foreigners without doing enough to determine who those foreigners are or how they entered the country in the first place.

The question of identity in Nigeria is a much rehashed one. The question of who is a Nigerian and what it means to be a Nigerian beyond some numbers will remain as long as there are present in Nigeria those who subject entire communities to annihilation without properly identifying themselves.

Kene Obiezu, wrote via [email protected]

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