Making the national ID work


June 14, 2018 | 6:41 pm
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The National Identity Management Commission recently confessed its inability to deliver national identity cards to millions of citizens waiting for it. According to the commission, national identity cards that are ready are mainly for people who enrolled in 2012 and 2013, noting that it was adopting a first-come, first-served approach. The Director-General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, said the focus of the agency right now is on National Identification Number and not on the card.


According to Aziz: “The focus is actually on the National Identification Number. Your NIN gives you your identity and not the card. Historically, we focused ourselves on the card to be the output of what we do; but when the country went into recession, we stepped back and checked and found out that in the United States, it is the Social Security Number that connects all the other agencies.


“In the United Kingdom, it is the National Insurance Number; and in India where recently they enrolled about 1.4 billion people, they only gave the number. This means you can now pull your own NIN and then print it the way you want it.

“Recently in Nigeria, we did the Bank Verification Number; and again, what you get is a number and not a BVN card.

But Aziz realised the Nigerian law ultimately requires that citizens be given identity card and he quickly chipped in: “However, this does not mean that we won’t give out cards, because it is there in the law that we should issue a general multipurpose card that is secure.”


NIMC’s confession of incapacity comes a full 10 years after it was established and 8 years since it commenced operation. For national identification, just giving each person a number would not do. Citizens across the world hold physical cards. In countries like the US, which Aziz cited as using only a social security number, states are empowered by law to give out identity cards and drivers license.  The national Social Security Number is used mainly as employee identifier for tax reporting, retirement and benefits purposes. Nigeria chose the national ID card model and that is why NIMC was created in the first place.

But NIMC has been about talk than delivering on the card it was established to deliver. In the last seven years, it has received a N80.2 billion from the federal government but has only been able to capture a mere 25 percent of Nigeria’s 180 million population (put conservatively) into its database while not more than five percent of those captured have been issued with the National Identification Number (NIN), which is soon to become a compulsory document for all Nigerians residing in the country. This is no judicious use of funds.


But lack of funds is no good reason not to deliver on the national ID card scheme. NIMC can explore several options like charging for the cards, like banks and all other card-issuing institutions do, concessioning the management of the issuance to the committee of banks that have proved adept at managing the enrolment process.

The government and the National Assembly must take stock of the work of NIMC to see whether it is delivering value for money and whether, as constituted, the agency has the capacity to deliver on the assignment it was created to deliver. It is time we adopt a business approach to governance and the public sector in Nigeria where institutions and agencies justify their existence and funds given to them.




June 14, 2018 | 6:41 pm
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