The national identity conundrum – Thisday

The National Identity Management Commission should sit up

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has called off the use of National Identity Number (NIN) for the 2020 university admission. This decision was made after the exercise received knocks for inflicting untold ordeal on the prospective Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) candidates and their parents. All over the country, there were tales of excruciating agony by candidates before the exercise was suspended.

The Director General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Mr Aliyu Aziz confessed the exercise was shelved because the commission was overwhelmed by the upsurge in enrolment. He said the commission had only 1,000 centres nationwide against the over 4,000 enrolment centres required for the exercise. This confession is a serious indictment on the NIMC. We take the admission to imply that the commission neither has the capacity, expertise nor personnel to handle the strategic task of national identity management in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, this has only brought to fore the concerns of many Nigerians over the prospects of NIMC completing the harmonisation and integration of all existing identity database in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). Such harmonisation will ensure uniformity of data and easy integration into a centralised and functional national identity database. If such had been in existence, JAMB candidates would not have been subjected to such grief and pains that those who seek to obtain Nigerian passport or driver’s licence go through every day.

We fail to understand why securing a NIN could be riddled with chaos, difficulties and pandemonium on the scale of the charade being witnessed. Aside failing to come to terms with the reality that a huge segment of Nigeria’s 200 million population are below 18 years and prospective JAMB candidates, majority of NIMC staff deployed to the centres to coordinate the registration exercise were also compromised as they covertly engaged in bribery, extortion and racketeering. It is therefore little surprise that the national identity management scheme has degenerated into one big racket and an ineffectual structure that has failed to fulfil the purpose for which it was established. The UTME episode, which exposed NIMC inefficiency, has once again brought to the fore the necessity of harmonising the collection and usage of biometric data in the country.

It would certainly cost less, save time and energy if every government agency could collaborate and agree to share data instead of each gathering its own biometrics. We recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan, in 2014 issued a directive asking all the MDAs to work with the NIMC to fast-track a biometric database in the country. The reasoning behind that directive against multiple identity capturing exercises was that besides being unwieldy, the cost of operating multiple discordant database and infrastructure is unsustainable. But sadly, nothing has been done in respect of this directive as several agencies, notably the National Population Commission (NPC), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the banks still continue to demand biometric data from Nigerians.

Ordinarily, biometrics is based on individual characteristics of the subject and is not necessary to be replicated or duplicated for authenticity. There are no two persons with the same set of finger prints, palm prints, or retina in the world. Since biometrics is therefore as individual as the DNA of a person, any pretensions about needing to capture same in a multiplicity of places for security, efficiency and effectiveness falls flat on its face. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Nigeria with biometrics data collection becoming one big machinery for racket and extortion.

 

 

 

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