Update 1: Fraudsters taking advantage of Nigeria’s slow multi-billion identity card scheme

Update 1: Fraudsters taking advantage of Nigeria’s slow multi-billion identity card scheme

… as NIMC says it needs additional N65billion to complete process

The inconclusive process of the National Identity Management System (NIMS) and the very slow pace of card issuance persist, even after about N121 billion is said to have been spent by the Federal Government of Nigeria on the project.

The slow process of getting the cards has created the opportunity for fraudsters to dupe unsuspecting Nigerians, eager to enrol and be granted National Identity Numbers (NIN) and Identity cards.

The identity management programme was established by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act No 23 of 2007, with 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 and issue general multi-purpose cards to those registered individuals, and to harmonise and integrate existing identification databases in Nigeria, as a way of easy identification of citizens and in order to facilitate better government planning.

BusinessDay investigations show that some Nigerians who have enrolled for a National Identity Card from as far back as 2014 and have misplaced the NIN paper slip, have been charged as much as N1,000 for a replacement by street thugs who hang around various local government offices, while some unsuspecting citizens are paying money for people to help them fill the form and speed up the process.

“This process is dragging for too long and you know Nigerians always try to look for a shorter way to go about things. Nobody wants to register and keep waiting for the card after two or three years, so it is easy for fraudsters to cajole people to pay more, so that they can get their cards faster,” Adebisi Olotu, a staff at one of the local government’s told BusinessDay.

Olotu also said that the long and tedious process of replacing a lost slip is a contributing factor.

“You need to get a police report and go to court to swear affidavit, fill a form, including your contact details and look for an NIMC office to submit it, with a fee of N500 for a reprint. Many people don’t want to go through this process and so they fall into the hands of touts who charge them much more money, only to disappear without giving them what they paid for,” she said.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently approved the NIN as valid for identifying customers for banking transactions, which has led to a surge in the number of Nigerians seeking to have their NIN.

But many Nigerians are having a hard time obtaining the NIN or the card.

Festus Ogor (@FestusOgor) in a tweet at @nimc_ng on 20 April said that he had his print-out since 2013 but still does not have his card.

In another tweet on the same day Henry Odigie said, “I misplaced my National ID Card slip and I am going through hard time getting a new one.”

Experts have criticised the inconclusive process of the National Identity programme, attributing it to the lack of appropriate planning, policy inconsistency and poor budget allocation, as well as lack of well-synchronised data. They note that the lack of a proper identity management system in the country has a negative impact on the economy.

“The absence of a unique identity number for every citizen in Nigeria may have been a contributory factor to the halting development of certain services and industries in the country. For instance, the growth of consumer credit may have been stymied by the absence of a unique means of identification of all citizens, which in turn created room for high rate of consumer delinquency  and lenders unwillingness to advance credits to individuals without tangible collateral,” Johnson Chukwu, MD and CEO of Cowry Asset Management Limited told BusinessDay.

Chukwu, who is also a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said that Nigeria lacks a good credit system because of the absence of National Identity numbers.

“At the macro-economic level, consumer credit can be used as a tool for stimulating economic growth. When the monetary authorities lower benchmark rates, consumers are encouraged to borrow and increase their consumption, which engenders increase in demand and consequent increase in production, employment and income.

“Industries, such as vehicle manufacturing thrive in markets where there is strong demand, which in most cases is dependent on the availability of consumer credit. It then follows that a country like Nigeria, without a developed consumer credit market, cannot realise its full growth potential, as it lacks one of the tools for economic stimulation. The effectiveness of monetary policies in such economy is highly limited, given the absence of consumer credit which is a critical transmission channel,” he added.

In an interview with Technology Times published 30 January 2017, Aliyu Aziz Abubakar, Director General, NIMC, said, “Nigeria needs about N65 billion more to reach the remaining population yet to be enrolled in the programme.” This is in addition to the estimated N121 billion gulped in this project over the last five years, with contracts for registration, data processing and card production, issued out to various foreign and local companies.

In a tweet on Wednesday March 29, 2017, the NIMC (@nimc_ng) blamed the slow pace of card issuance primarily, on lack of adequate funds. The NIMC acknowledged that some people (touts) are collecting money in their name to issue the cards but warned that such people should not be patronised.

“The slow pace of card issuance is primarily a funding challenge. But plans are in top gear to commence use of NIN for ID verification,” NIMC said on their tweeter handle.

Experts say that failure to enroll all Nigerians may lead to lack of growth in the economy, as the purpose of the National Identity Number is to easily identify every Nigerian citizen, curb identity theft and ensure that every individual is given their entitlement, based on their genuine identity.

Apart from the quest to warehouse the profile of all Nigerians for effective national planning, the need for synergy with other data management organisations, such as the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration, Bank Verification Number (BVN), voters’ card in virtually all sectors of the economy is of utmost importance, as this would make it easier for government to plan and channel adequate attention to areas such as education, pensions, jobs and others, analysts say.

According to Hadiza Dagabana, General Manager, Legal Services at NIMC; “the Commission is still taking steps to ensure the mandatory use of National Identity Numbers (NIN) according to the Act which stipulates that transactions including applications for, and issuance of an International Passports; opening of individual and group bank accounts, all consumer credits; purchase of insurance policies; the purchase, transfer and registration of land by any individual; National Health Insurance Scheme, such transactions that have social security implications, registration of voters, payment of taxes, and pensions, will be done with the NIN.

 

Jumoke Akiyode

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