National Identity Card Project: Another failed Attempt? By Felix Omoh-Asun

 

Over a million Nigerians who have registered for the much publicised national Identity card are yet to be issued with the card.

Findings by The Street Journal revealed many Nigerians have waited for the issuing body, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), after going through biometric capturing, to get their card all to no avail. Some as long as four years after they have been registered.

Tunde in Abuja registeted in 2012, hoping that within a year, he would get his card, till now he is still on the waiting list.

Same for Ogbaje, who registeted immediately the scheme came on board in 2012, he is still expecting that he would soon get a text messaging asking him to come for the collection of the card.

Expressing his disgust at the delay of getting his card, Ogbaje said, “they made us believe that the card was important and that once the enrolment is done, you would collect the card immediately just like the then President Goodluck Jonathan did. He collected his immediately he registeted, same day.

“I never knew it was just a gimmick. I went to where I registeted at the Nigerian Immigration office on Airport Road, Abuja, to complain, I was given a form to fill. They said they could not trance my card, I am still waiting till today”, he fumed.

Although, Lewis had since collected his card, but the hope of making use of it for financial transactions has been dashed. ” Once I insert my card into ATM machines, i would be told invalid. I don’t understand. When I registeted I was told I could use it at ATM to collect cash but this is not so”, he said.

A visit to NIMC office on Airport Road and its Headquarters at Wuse, Abuja, more people are registering everyday, but when they will collect the card is a different thing all together.

Since it was re-introduced in 2012 criticisms have continued to trail the scheme

Apart from the fact that the scheme is under funded by the Federal Government, there is the allegations of sharp practices by the commission that is preventing the printing and distribution of the cards.

Investigations indicated that since the registration and collection of the card is free, government had refused to fund it apart from the initial take off grant.

Although there is legal tangle to it, that has not prevented the smooth take off, neither is it supposed to slow down printing and distribution of cards.

Former President Jonathan, during the formal launch of the project in August, 2014 said: “The logistics and speed of data collection must have to be improved upon, and this will reduce the justifications given by MDAs, as reasons for duplicated biometric options.   Hopefully, the Harmonization programme will help to achieve this, especially, by the Commission ensuring that MDAs switch or at least align their existing infrastructure, as data collection agents to the NIMC System.”

As President Jonathan opined in the launch, “The card is not only a means of certifying your identity, but also a personal database repository and payment card, all in your pocket.” It sounds all swell. Infact, the launch elicited great expectations. This was because, the project has been long in the making.

However, the ghost of the past that had made the project a lame duck, is beginning to creep in and the concern now is whether it will not end up the same way others in the past went.

The first proposal for the National ID project was mooted in 1976, but various interests, including cultural and religious concerns, pressured the administration into abandoning the idea.

After that initial projection successive governments, military or civilian, had found it difficult to throw off the incubus hindering the realisation of the idea.

The question is how come a project that would have been immensely beneficial to Nigerians as the national Identity card project ends up stymied every step of the way as it is today?

With a record of sleaze, abandonment, requiem and sundry punches that had made the projects prostrated over the years, that fear is beginning to set in.

Senior Manager/Head, Corporate Communication, NIMC, Loveday Ogbonna, said some of the notions the public had of the commission was misplaced..

He told The Street Journal that banks are not supposed to turn down Nigerians with the NIN slip for transactions because the emphasis is on the National Identification Number which is clearly visible on the NIN slip and is similar to the social security number issued in the United States of America.

“The NIN is the Unique Identifier issued to an individual upon successful registration into the National Identity Database and is used to verify and authenticate the identity of such an individual in Banks and other outlets, using various platforms such as Card Acceptance Devices (CAD).

“The NIN is your identity, not even the card or the slip, hence we have commenced serious discussions with the CBN to permit the use of the NIN slip duly issued by the NIMC, which contains the NIN, for transactions since the NIN is easily verifiable online and realtime. Meanwhile, the card is a token given after a successful enrolment and issuance of your NIN. You may lose your card or at the expiration of the card get a replacement, but not so with your NIN. It is issued once in a lifetime.

“Very soon, the NIMC will begin to enforce the mandatory use of the NIN for transactions by agencies of government and financial institutions.”

On the prompt insurance of cards to some Nigerians, especially VIPs like the President, former Presidents, Governors and top government officials, who registered in 2015 have been issued their cards, while others who registered in 2012, 2013 and 2014 are yet to get their own cards, noted that when it first started, it was a public private partnership, which had since given way.

“First of all, you will recall that we started enrolling Nigerians and issuing them National Identification Numbers (NIN) in 2012, at that time the arrangement was a Public Private Partnership where two other actors were to join in the enrolment and subsequent issuing of general multipurpose smart cards to successful enrolees, but we had a setback with that arrangement.

“It was in August of 2014 that we commenced the pilot phase of the card issuance to Nigerians who had enrolled, we had an official unveiling and presidential launch of the card if you can recall.

“Since then we have continued to issue cards to Nigerians, I can confirm to you that we have successfully cleared almost all of 2012 cases and are currently rounding up on 2013 enrolments, 2012 and 2013 cards were particularly slow in reaching their owners because we had to work on some of the data to bring them up to some recent technologies, and we had to do this without asking the enrolees to come back for fresh data capturing. We have since rounded up the pilot phase and are issuing cards daily, as I speak there are over 750,000 cards in our various state offices waiting for collection from those we have sent SMS notifications to.

But why it that ordinary Nigerians find it difficult to get their cards years after registration, whilst VIP promptly get their immediately after enrolment?

“When it comes to VIPs, the major reasons why we paid special attention to selected persons is for endorsement. Remember that Nigeria has been grappling with the issue of National Identity Management and National ID Card for several years now, leading a lot of citizens to lose faith in the whole project, there are also misconceptions about the National Identification number bothering on religion, so when we say so and so has registered and has been issued their NIN or card, we do that to gain support and buy in of Nigerians. If you noticed recently we have even toned down those VIP activities. Every Nigerian and Legal resident will eventually get their cards; we are currently working hard to get more support from government to enable NIMC scale up its service delivery to Nigerians”

On the question of the period of registration and collection Ogbonna said, the Commission is trying to clear the backlog of cards already in its system and as soon as that is done, card collection should be within a period of three to six months after registration.

 

 

Author: News Editor

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