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NIN Tokenisation: Days to commencement, Nigerians kept in the dark

As Nigeria strives to have as much information and data pool for various purposes, the hasty way the federal government implements various digital policies leaves…

As Nigeria strives to have as much information and data pool for various purposes, the hasty way the federal government implements various digital policies leaves much to be desired.

The announcement by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Aliyu Isah Pantami, to “Tokenise” the National Identification Number (NIN) of Nigerians reminded Nigerians about the hardship they were subjected to in the past.

For almost a year, they were threatened to get their NIN linked to their phone numbers and Bank Verification Number (BVN), which the government said, is to enable it to monitor every telephone communication and track bandits who use the telephone to demand ransom and other criminal activities.

However, they were utterly disappointed as they witnessed an escalation of everything including attacks, which they were told, the NIN-SIM cards linkage will reduce.

Therefore, the announcement by Minister Pantami was greeted with skepticism by the people who cared to listen who come across the information by chance.

According to the authorities, NIN tokenisation was introduced with the aim of protecting NIN holders’ identities during verification processes.

However, whether it will serve the purpose or not, the exercise, which the government says will commence Saturday, 1st January 2022 should not be a passive message, but something, which must be explained to Nigerians in clear, unambiguous terms.

Nigerians are still kept in the dark because they still don’t know how their NIN will be tokenised and what they stand to gain from it.

The NIMC Director General (DG), Engr Aliyu Abubakar Aziz speaking at a one-day Stakeholders’ Workshop on National Identification Number (NIN) Tokenisation Solution recently said the government adopted the solution to ensure the privacy of personal identifiable information of individuals during verification transactions and to reduce incidences of illegal retrieval, usage, transfer and storage of NIN.

He said: “Full implementation commences 1st January 2022”.

According to him, the NIN Tokenisation solution is a feature of the NIN Verification Service (NVS) aimed at providing enhanced data protection for the personal information of persons registered into the National Identity Data Base (NIDB) and issued a NIN.

“The purpose of the NIN Tokenisation is to provide a coded representation (‘pseudonymisation’) of the actual NIN for which another party verifying the identity of the registered person cannot retain and use in a way that puts the individual’s data privacy at risk”.


How to get the token

To get the token, the DG said, a person must have a National Identity Number (NIN) issued by NIMC, a mobile number registered in Nigeria and linked to his NIN, a smartphone or a feature phone with the SIM (or eSIM) with the person’s mobile number.

He added that tokenisation is to provide a means for persons issued a NIN and entitled to the National e-ID card to have a visual, high-security representation of the National e-ID on IOS and Android smartphones.


Why FG will replace NIN with digital tokens

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Pantami said the federal government adopted tokenisation to ensure the privacy of personal identifiable information of individuals during verification transactions and to reduce incidences of illegal retrieval, usage, transfer, and storage of NIN.

He said the system was customised to protect personal identifiable information and to protect the sanctity as well as the sensitivity of the NIN issued by NIMC to registered individuals.

The minister noted that NIN tokens are ministries departments and agencies (MDA) or merchant-specific and expire after a set period of time.

Shedding more light, the Technical Consultant of NIMC, Tunji Durodola said the Digital Token was designed to replace the 11-digit NIN for everyday usage.

NIMC Director Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Services, Hajiya Hadiza Dagabana emphasised on the need for sensitisation of the public about the policy.

Daily Trust reports that tokenisation is issued by an ID Holder, either via the NIMC MWS Mobile ID apps or via USSD on a feature phone and only by the NIMC, while a mobile number linked to the NIN is required to participate.

NIN Tokenisation

NIN tokenisation helps to protect an individual’s data privacy via the use of an encrypted, coded representation (“disguised”) version of the NIN rather than actual NIN itself in day-to-day transactions.

The virtual NIN

The Virtual NIN is also a tokenised version of the person’s actual NIN, which another party verifying the number cannot retain and use in a way that puts the individual’s data privacy at risk.

The Virtual NIN itself (not the NIN record it represents) expires 72 hours after being generated.

How it works via USSD

To generate a Virtual NIN via USSD, dial *346*3*Your NIN*AgentCode#. An SMS message will be sent to you containing the Virtual NIN generated for you.

How it works on the MWS mobile app

Launch the MWS Mobile ID app installed on your device (Android or iOS). Make sure you have the current version of the app installed or updated on your mobile device. Enter your PIN on the lock screen to continue. Select the “GET VIRTUAL NIN” button on the “Home” screen. Read through the “Enhanced Data Privacy” text.

Then click on the button with the “+” sign on the bottom right corner of the screen to start the process of generating a Virtual NIN for the verifying Enterprise you are dealing with.

Tap on any of the available options to either scan the Enterprise’s QR code or type in the Enterprise’s ID. A Virtual NIN is generated for you to use specifically with that verifying Enterprise alone. Present the Virtual NIN to the Enterprise for verification. Receive a notification once verification is completed by the Enterprise.

Benefits of NIN tokenisation

According to the authorities, it will ensure data privacy protection – access to an individual’s NIN by others is further restricted. The generated token is encrypted and totally opaque with no correlation to the NIN.

They said a NIN holder is the only exclusive issuer. Generated tokens expire after a set period of time. Virtual NIN tokens generated are merchant-specific, a token generated for company A cannot be used or verified by company B. 

NIN-SIM linkage ends December 31 as 70 million Nigerian get NIN 

It could be recalled that the deadline for telecom subscribers to link their NIN to Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) ends Friday, December 31, according to FG.

The federal government had extended the exercise about eight times since its commencement in December 2020.

A statement on the commencement of the exercise in 2020, jointly signed by the spokespersons for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Ikechukwu Adinde and Kayode Adegoke respectively stated that: “Citizens and legal residents are urged to complete the process before the end of the year 2021”.

NIN and international passport issuance hitch

NIMC has urged the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) to obtain modern technology to verify the NIN to curb hitches in international passport issuance to applicants.

Many passport applications suffered hitches in the last three months, owing to NIN verification issues. 

But NIMC had said NIS was to blame because it failed to employ modern identity verification methods.

According to the statement, President Muhammad Buhari had approved the upgrade of the NIMS infrastructure and strengthened the capacity of the Commission to deliver on its mandate.

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