By Daniels Nwokike & Gift Samuel
Abuja-Nigeria presently has a population of a whopping 180 million citizens or even more but only a little fraction of 16.8 million individuals have been captured in the database of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). The Commission has in this interview with The Sight News, urged Nigerians to make the most of the window available to register and be identified.
According to the Head, Corporate Communications, NIMC, Mr. Loveday Ogbonna, the registration for the NIN is compulsory for all citizens as government agencies, banks and other relevant bodies in the nearest future would not transact any form of business with a citizen that cannot be identified.
GIVE US A BREAKDOWN OF THE PROCESSES INVOLVED IN THE REGISTRATION TO ISSUANCE OF THE NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD
First of all, the National Identity Management Commission hosts and houses the National Identity database. It is a clear deviation from what was done in the past and it goes beyond that because what we have now is identity management system not just ID card production, even the cards we are producing as a token now is a smart card, it has a smart chip that does a whole lot of functions unlike the previous exercise that was done. Before we were only registering from age 16 and above but now we have come down to age zero (0) and above till death. But we don’t issue the card to anybody that is not up to 16 years, until you turn 16, the card will not be issued to you.
When you walk into any NIMC Enrolment Registration Centers (ERCs) which is all over Nigeria, we are in all the local governments of the states though about 200 or thereabout are not active now because of power and funding challenges but at least we are in over 444 local governments areas in the country and we also have special centers cut across the states where we look at large populations and then we try to put in our systems there to be able to reach to the unreached.
So, you walk into a typical NIMC office, you have to go with a means of ID which we call your functional identity but what we have is the foundational identity, if you are a Nigerian, something that proves that you are a citizen even though we are also going to be registering legal residents but for now we are ensuring that we first of all clear all Nigerians but the legal residents, we will have their papers, they will also be captured and registered into the database; that’s to enable us know how many actually we are here and who actually is who in Nigeria.
When you get to a NIMC office, go to the section and collect a form, there are a lot of fields there that need to be filled to make sure that your personal data are covered, your demographics and your biometrics will be taken.
Your biometrics for now we are doing your fingerprints, iris and then in the near future we are going to introduce other functions just to make sure that you cannot escape it (enhance security and authenticity of the individual’s information). Your height measurement will be taken and whatever you are bringing as a means of ID which before now we limited it to be the ones that banks where asking for, has been extended so that even your company ID, your student ID cards are now part of what we accept and that will be demanded for and given back to you after scanning it into our system, so that tomorrow you don’t come to say this is not who you are or this is not the information you supplied us with, of course we have evidence of what you provided at the point of registration and then we take it from there. Also, while the registration is going on, the system is built in such a way that you will be seeing it through. You will be seeing from the other side so that you know what is being inputted into the system and you will be asked questions over and over again so that errors will be eliminated and there will be no need to make corrections again at the end as much as possible. So, once those fields are inputted and your biometrics and demographics are taken, and then the document you brought with you has been scanned, the process is completed.
About the National Identification Number (NIN)
There is a printout of what we call a tracking ID which shows that your enrolment process has been completed but that does not guarantee the pulling out of what we call your National Identification Number (NIN) which is the completion of the entire process. Two slips are given to you at the end of the registration. Maybe not immediately but the first slip ensures that you have gone through the enrolment process successfully and pulls up what we call, your tracking ID but whereby the system suspects that for any reason that you are duplicated somewhere, we will allow it for a process of checking and rechecking just to make sure that there are no two people that are the same. That is what we call due duplication in the abyss. Due duplication means that the system has gone through all the records to ensure that there is nobody like you, either by face or by name or anything, that you are that single individual, then the unique identification number pulls out, Your NIN may be pulled instantly which means that the system has concluded due duplication and that ID is for you for life and upon death that number ceases to exist and cannot be reallocated to any other person because it is randomly generated.
If you register with your wife, chances are that two of you will get something completely different so it is not a smart number, it is randomly generated by the system in order to avoid some body saying okay give me number 21 give my wife number 23 it is not done that way. So once that NIN has been pulled out, it becomes yours for life and it becomes your unique identifier so much so that even without the card that people are talking about, which to us Nigerians we know people want to see a token, with that now in most banks, when you go there and quote the number to them, they have our verification platform which upon mentioning that 11 digit number (the NIN is usually 11 digit number) you are verified online and real time by the banks just like the Bank Verification Number (BVN). Almost all the banks now are doing that with us, even without your card, your number is your identity but because you might need the card for other transactions like finance, it has a finance articulates, it has other things, so, you can actually say I want the card as a token to show that you have actually registered into our database. That concludes the entire process.
Do-It-Yourself Process (pre-enrolment)
You can also start the process by doing it at home with your mobile devices like your mobile phone. We call it pre-enrolment, you do that instead of coming to our office and bother about inputting your information into a form, you do all the enrolment process, certify all those things on our website. We call it the pre-enrolment portal. If you just type NIMC pre-enrolment portal, it comes up, you do the enrolment there but the process does not end there as you still need to make yourself available in our office to capture your biometrics. At the completion of that your pre-enrolment exercise, it pulls up what we call your barcode (your 2D barcode) which you are supposed to print but if you cannot print it, you come with it, at that point of pulling it with your phone or the smart device you were using, we put it into our system to populate our system with all those information, then we go through it again with you just to make sure that what you put there is right and then we are good to go. The system will now pull your NIN on the same day or few days after it must have finished due duplication.
Harmonization Exercise (NIN, BVN & NCC)
There is a harmonization exercise that is going on now with BVN and with NCC whereby if you have your BVN already and you walk into our office to get registered, we’ll first of all ask you if you have your BVN. When you bring your BVN, we check it in the system to see whether you are there or not. If you are there on our system, the system automatically pulls your NIN, so what we just ask you to do is to update your information based on the fields we are asking for because the fields we ask for supersedes whatever fields any other biometrics or data collection agencies collect. For example, if you want to obtain your National Driver’s License, basically the information you will be asked to provide are things pertaining to driving apart from other various information that you will be providing; the same goes for the International Passport. You find out that if you don’t ever want to drive or have any business travelling abroad, you may not need these two but you definitely need the National ID Card because it has a lot of functions and there is need for you to be at our database for the purpose of crime and all that, it will be able to help solve crime in Nigeria once you are captured in our database, we can pick your forensics and then be able to get information about you.
Denial Of Service
So, it is not an option. Very soon we will make it compulsory for every Nigerian to have that NIN. Every agency of government that wants to do any business with you will soon begin to request for your NIN, not your card this time, before services will be given to you and then we will soon commence denial of service where you do not have it. So that is why we are urging every Nigerian now to go this moment, it is free, go and enroll in any NIMC office near you. Complete your enrolment either through the pre-enrolment system that you do on your own and come to our office to complete or you just walk into our office, spend a little more time, go through the process and then you are out.
WHAT IS HINDERING THE ISSUANCE OF THE NATIONAL ID TO MOST NIGERIANS?
The federal government made provision for the first 13 million cards but then, the capacity for the card bureau services is not there. We only have one card bureau service here in Abuja that prints for over 16.8 million Nigerians that have registered so far on the database and we have printed slightly above one million cards only, out of the 16.8 million that have registered so far. So you see that at the rate at which we are going, we cannot meet this challenge if we do not have these card bureau services duplicated in various places and various states. So, that capacity needs to be there, that funding need to be there to be able to make sure that as soon as you register, it takes a maximum of 3 months for you to have your card out.
WILL NIGERIANS AT SOME POINT HAVE TO PAY FOR THE PROCESS?
Enrolment and registration is free because we need your biometrics and also we need you to enroll. You are not paying anything for enrolment, it is free but we are looking at the near future where a token will have to be paid for the card. We are also looking at the option of, let’s say, if you want it faster and all that, you also pay a token. These are the options we are weighing at the moment. We are also discussing with the private sector, which was the original plan in the first place. The original plan was for us not to be involved in enrolment, card printing, production and personalization of cards. It was supposed to be a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement where the private sector does the capturing of these people based on our own standards that have been given to them and we license them but along the line that marriage had issues between the private sector and it collapsed. That is why we now went into capturing of data. It wasn’t supposed to be our business at all; we were supposed to be involved in back end. Just making sure that everything you are bringing to the back end has integrity and meets our requirements. Then from there we also give you limited access for you to now personalize these cards and issue the cards to Nigerians without us being involved. We are now doing everything because as it is, we cannot keep waiting for the marriage that failed to continue and also for Nigerians not to think that we are not doing anything.
So, it’s a lot challenging but then we are saying that there are some services now that we have tried to put some money into, for example, if you lose that slip we gave to you and you want to print another one, which the bank have now started recognizing, you will pay a token of N500 naira to the TSA, all you need to do is to bring evidence that you lost it, go to the court and swear an affidavit and as usual police report. Bring that evidence to us, pay the money into our TSA account and then just walk into any bank, tell them you want to pay into remittal, N500 and they can print it out for you.
Change of Name and Date Of Birth
If you want to do update probably after marriage and you want to change name, you bring evidence of change of name from the newspapers and with that you will apply so that your name can now change to your new name. When your name changes to the new name, we don’t also forget that you were former Ms. Blessing Udemba for example, that record is there. Even if you change your name over 10 times, all those logs will be there so that we are able to keep a track that it is the same person that has been doing all these, but then you don’t just wake up and change your name, so we make sure that the provision to changing your name is a bit difficult and convincing because name is not what you change every now and then.
Another thing that can’t easily change is your date of birth, because of course you can only be born once and that’s why we make sure that at the point of registration, all those information provided are also confirmed by you. Otherwise, once we go ahead and indicate a change of date, it takes a whole lot of process for you to reflect that new date of birth because you can only be born once in a lifetime. That’s why we encourage people to at the point of registration ensure that information they provide is correct and certified. You have the screen to yourself; we also have the screen to ourselves at that point we try to seal it.
CBN Directive to Banks
Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria also directed all the banks to begin to collect that NIN slip because we notice before now that some banks were declining, so any bank that refuses to do this, there becomes a penalty that goes with it because they can actually verify the person online real time and our facility, our token the NIN is the only thing that you can actually verify online real time.
MOST NIGERIANS ARE OF THE OPINION THAT NIMC IS SELECTIVE IN CARD ISSUANCE, IS THERE ANY TRUTH IN THIS?
We are a national commission owned and funded by the federal government, so the issue of religion, ethnicity and all such vices, as much as possible are kept far away from us here. Even in our employment you could see that we are well balanced here based on the federal character principle, every strata of the society is covered. In the initial time when we started the pilot card production, yes we tried to focus on those that were helping us to provide these funds. You had to at least do something with the senate, the executives, those that registered in the state house because of course he who pays the piper dictates the tune so as much as possible you have to give them evidence of what they are sponsoring. You give them the card and say this is what we want to give to Nigerians and they have a feel of it and they say go ahead, so there and then we tried as much as possible to satisfy them, then there had to be a cut off mark so it doesn’t look like you are only doing it for those in the executive because every Nigerian is very important and has the same right like the person working in the state house so those options were chosen but along the line we now stopped and presently we are doing it by first come, first serve and we also try to check the system so that we can randomly print from any year just to make sure that there are no issues here. It could be from 2014 but the truth is that we started enrolling into the national database in 2012 but we didn’t start card production until 2014 so that is what most people do not actually know about. So if you start judging us from when we started enrolling, you might not be wrong because that is the information that is at your disposal.
But if you start judging us from 2014 and for the fact the card production bureau has a certain number of card they must print in a day otherwise it will wear down and break down the system as it is only one, so it cannot do more than it is meant to do so we are counting from 2014 sometime in August that was when we started card production till date, but we are trying to discuss with the private sector again, we have gone back to them and asking for funding here and there, we want to make sure that we have card bureau services that can personalize these cards faster at various intervals so that maximum of between three to six months these cards are there because there is even no reason why you shouldn’t have the card.
WHAT IS BEING DONE REGARDING THE FIRST COME FIRST SERVE BASIS YOU TALKED ABOUT BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE WHO REGISTERED IN 2012 ARE YET TO GET THEIR CARDS?
I can assure you that every 2012 card is ready in this commission. If the person did registration in 2012, I can assure you that his or her card is ready. One of the challenges we are having with those people is that the phone number some of them used upon registration may have been lost or may have changed so even when we send you a text, you discover that you might not see it because you are no longer using that number and you have not come to update that number and has not gone into our card portal to also check whether that card is ready because we also have a portal where you can check to know whether your card is available. We also have SMS platform which we are about deploying so that people can send text messages to confirm if the card is ready. So for those who have lost their cards or their numbers and can longer access that number, we have a lot of them, in fact we have over 200 people in that category so we are trying to reach out to them either through the email that they used. Even up to march 2013, the card is ready.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THE COMMISSION IS FACING PRESENTLY?
Well, we are not separated from what is happening in the country because we are also part of the country and the country is presently in recession, we are experiencing it and that has also affected the funding. The funding has diminished because it is capital intensive.
Percentage Decrease in Allocation
It is a whole lot. Usually before now we were supposed to be getting maybe like 7billion or 6 billion but two years ago we got 700 million not even 1billion and then last year or the year that is running we got less than 500 million so you can see that it is facing all government establishment but that is why we are now looking out for options based on the new system of administration, think out of the box, look out for collaborations, partnerships and other funding means elsewhere but we are careful of where we collect the money, it’s a government agency and there are rules and regulations guiding how you go and collect money; but then Nigeria is our primary concern because we need Nigerians’ information more than any other person, we need to populate that data base, gone are the days when somebody will just wake up and tell you Nigeria is between 150 and 180 million and up till now most of us don’t even know how many we are in Nigeria. We quote statistics from out there approximating and we understand that Nigeria grows at the rate of 7 million every year which is the total number of some countries in Africa, you see that it is actually massive. So we are looking at 180 million people and we are just at 16 million plus.
We still have a very long way to go with the present administration both here and at the National level, my DG has done very well, I must confess. He came into this organization and inherited enrolment figure of slightly 7 million and that was between 2012 to 2016 when he came on board but between 2016 till now, he has not just doubled that figure from 7 million to 16.8 million plus but is almost tripling it. So we are determined and the harmonization exercise is also helping us because once we have your data from BVN it helps us to capture a lot more people but funding plays a big role here because we need to sensitize Nigerians far more than what we are doing but then there is no money for now. A lot of people still don’t understand what we do here and a lot of them still need to know the importance of what we are doing and then we need money, so we are appealing to good spirited individuals and organizations like The Sight News to help us in this business of talking to people and helping to create awareness.
Illiteracy and Belief System
We also have the challenge of illiteracy in some parts, there are some places where they tell you that this is the mark of the beast and because of that there is another party from some religion that will tell you that it is the end time and they are giving you a number and they will say they don’t want to do it and some are tying it to one thing or the other so these are some of the challenges so for somebody who has such a mindset you need to do a whole lot of work to tell him/her that it is not 666.
IS IT POSSIBLE THAT ALL NIGERIANS WILL BE REGISTERED?
Yes, that is our target. That is why we do not have an expiration date when the enrolment and registration will cease unlike the ones we have done in the past where they tell you that in one year’s time, enrolment and registration will cease and you see everybody rushing and all that. We have been established to make sure that every Nigerian is captured. So, there is no two ways about it and what we are planning to do now is sooner or later in the next few months, we are going to make it mandatory for every organization, private or government agency that wants to give you service to demand for that NIN or else, services will be denied that individual. For example, if you go to obtain your driver’s license and you are asked if you have gotten your NIN and you say no, they will tell you to go and get it first before you do this. We also want to do the same thing for international passport, voter’s card, if you want to put your child in school, all those things will be used as criteria to make Nigerians to take this serious and come to enroll because that will help us a lot to solve a lot of crime and give credit to the right person because Nigerians carry so many identity. I used to know someone who uses different identities for booking and boarding flights. The identity this person uses to board flight A is different from the one for flight B and when I asked he said it’s because people did not use their ticket, so he has to bear their name so long as the person is a man. He just walks in somewhere do a plastic ID card of two hundred naira and he becomes Chibuzo today, Adamu tomorrow and Kunle next week or whoever he chooses to be. So that multiplicity of identity has to stop.
WHAT METHOD DID THE NEW DG EMPLOY TO RECORD SUCH A MASSIVE ENROLMENT AND REGISTRATION WITHIN A SHORT TIME?
Well, I am not here to compare but just telling you the determination of every administration that have come and gone. Of course the whole idea is if you establish a solid foundation, another person will come and build on it and the prayer of every father is that the one coming after him to do better than him. So, like I told you, the harmonization exercise is paying off because the federal government through the office of the vice president, directed all data collection agencies like the NCC, which collects the data of GSM users, the Banks, the Road Safety, the VIO etc; to come together and bring all the data they have collected and deposit them with NIMC let NIMC be the sole repository of those biometrics because it is actually wrong to be giving every Dick and Tom your biometrics. So, with that, those information is now pulled and it has actually added to what we are doing and then there is a lot of persuasion. We are talking to those in churches, mosques, schools and in different organizations and we are trying to correct a lot of wrong impressions. Don’t forget that we are coming from the background of apathy where people don’t trust the system. There has been exercises in the past which they didn’t trust because it failed them. If you mention national ID card to them they will be like, hmm… is it not that thing that never worked? So we have to clear a lot of doubt and gradually people are buying into it, people are seeing now that it’s working, they are anxious to get the card now so that they can be verified and so that they can make payment with it.
The last time that I was in Dubai, I used my card in Dubai to make transactions. There is also a woman who gave us a testimony of her experience in US where her National Identity card, amongst all, identified her when all other forms of identification has failed her because we have a card that is local but with international acceptance. The card is far better than most of the cards that you carry along, in terms of quality and in terms of content. So when you pull that information anywhere you take it to it can display all your information because the world now is a global village.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THOSE NIGERIANS THAT THINKS THE SYSTEM HAS FAILED THEM?
Like I said, we can only plead with them because I for one will not also be happy that I have registered and I cannot lay hands on my card. To a typical Nigerian, what he understands is the end product which is the card or the token that we are giving. Although to us at NIMC we are more concerned with getting you into the database first because the truth is that with or without the card you can actually be identified. We are appealing with them, we have challenges, we are not going to keep talking about the challenges but we are talking about surmounting these challenges. We crave for their understanding and a little patience as we are putting in motion all these avenues to make sure that we fast track the printing of these cards especially for those who have registered and then we also need those that have not registered not minding the fact that the card is not out, go in there, lets populate the database and hopefully you might not have to wait like those who have registered before because we are getting it right and before the end of this year, I believe Nigerians will have reasons to smile and they will be happy with us once again.
As a Nigerian you are entitled to it and it’s your right, it could be free for now but there could be a token along the line but then if you will have to pay to also get something that works for you, of course why won’t we make that sacrifice.
HOW OFTEN DOES THE POLICE COME TO NIMC FOR IDENTIFICATION OF CRIMINALS OR FOR INVESTIGATIONS?
Now, let me even add that it is not just the police, there is a body that connects all the security agencies to the NIMC and they meet from time to time and the whole idea is to make sure that we give them limited access based on what they want to be able to solve their own challenges. If anybody is arrested for crime and that person is in the database, all they need to do is to get appropriate permission from the court and other relevant bodies and then we can pull out the person’s information and with that you can track the person. The information in your form filed is so exhaustive that you can be tracked to anywhere at all. Every attempt is being made to make sure that we work with them because they need what we have be it the police, the SSS, the National Security Adviser and the NIA, we have facilities in all their stations so that they are able to connect with us to do what they want to do because we are trying to solve a problem for the greater part of Nigeria.
Thank you for your time.
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