Amid cash crunch, will the proposed new national ID card project fly?

Despite the hiccups and other challenges associated with the registration and collection of the National Identification Number (NIN), the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has announced a bid to launch another national ID card for Nigerians; KEHINDE OSASONA takes a hard look at the issue.

Another national ID card?

No sooner than the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) announced its resolve to engage in another national identification exercise that Nigerians started reacting over its justification and whether it should fly or not.

In recent times, the NIN has become a unique identifier assigned to each citizen, and has gained prominence in recent years as the government initiatives targeted to enable security, governance, and service delivery.

However, for some analysts, the new move proposed is coming at the wrong time, while others are of the view that we have had enough, justifying the fact that any technology-driven exercise always strained the depend country financially and is also time-consuming.

Blueprint Weekend recalls that the Commission had while reeling out its plans a few days ago assured that it was targeting 200 million people by 2025 or 2026.

The NIMC Head of Corporate Communications, Kayode Adegoke, who announced it, said, “As of today, over 105 million NIN has been issued to Nigerians and legal residents. We want to assure Nigerians that within the next one or two years, we will reach our target of enrolling all Nigerians.”

This reporter learnt that key features of the card will include a machine-readable zone (MRZ) in conformity with ICAO for e-passport information, the identity card issue date and document number in line with the ICAO standard, and Nigeria’s quick response code (NQR) containing the national identification number.

Further findings revealed that it will also contain biometric authentication, such as fingerprint and pictures, as the primary medium for identity verification through the data on the card chip and offline capability that allows transactions in areas with limited network coverage or zero infrastructure connectivity.

Aside that, request for cards by registered citizens and legal residents according to the Commission will be made available online, at any commercial bank, various agencies or agents participating in multiple and/or any NIMC offices nationwide,”

Speaking about the programme, Adegoke said the NIMC remained steadfast in its commitment to achieving universal enrolment in the NIN system by 2025.

The Commission’s spokesperson noted that following Abisoye Coker’s appointment as the director-general of MIMC, she recognised the need to streamline the modification and enrolment processes.

The NIMC in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS), will launch the innovative identity solution with payment functionality for all types of social and financial services to be powered by AfriGO, a national domestic card scheme.

The National ID card, which will be layered with verifiable National Identity features, is backed by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, which mandates NIMC to enroll and issue a General Multipurpose card (GMPC) to Nigerians and legal residents.

The knocks

Meanwhile, civil society groups and concerned Nigerians have started probing into the new deal. While marshalling their arguments, they adduced financial implications, poor technology and the Nigeria factor as limiting aspects that could hinder the new initiatives.

While condemning the move, the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) described the planned issuance of a new National Identity Card as a misuse of the commonwealth of Nigerians, and a scheme to rip Nigerians off public funds.

The group which has subsequently called for its discontinuation has urged President Bola Tinubu to wade in.

In a statement issued by the national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in Abuja, the group said the plan showed a lack of national strategy to formulate and implement beneficial public policies governing the issuance of the ID.

HURIWA in the statement wondered how 133 million poor Nigerians suffering “crushing poverty,” were expected “to maintain working bank accounts to enable them to collect the so-called single national ID.”

 “This is a scheme to rip off Nigeria of monumental and humongous amounts of public funds which will end up in the offshore bank accounts of top leaders and their mistresses and acolytes.

“We call on President Bola Tinubu to discontinue this sheer misuse of both the commonwealth of Nigerians and the plan to once more subject Nigerians to rounds of ordeals of queuing up in the hot sun or rains all over the country in their banks to access their so-called banks to obtain the dubious national identity card even as the Rights group said it is poor thinking for NIMC to assume that all Nigerians have functional bank accounts to enable them get the ID from those banks,” the group noted in the statement.

HURIWA added that a report showed that 50 per cent of Nigerians were unbanked and un-bankable due to terrible poverty. The group has therefore urged the government to rather adopt the International Passport as the most critical ID card.

Also, commenting on the issue, an Abuja resident, Ademayokun Ifedapo, described the move as “a waste of funds and needless.”

According to him, what the government should have done, if at all, was to upgrade the old national identity card without having to start another exercise capable of distracting Nigerians.

“Imagine us queuing again for the national ID card after how many years. Could you believe that up till now, some people are yet to be captured while most people are yet to collect their own from NIM office? Here we are trying to commence another exercise to achieve what if I may ask.

“This for me is a project that would eat a chunk of our budget coming at a time when we have lean resources to contend with. Again, the population Census is also coming. Can we possibly afford to carry out the two amid economic challenges staring us in the face? Just think about it. But I think it is not necessary.”

Another public commentator, Ayisatu Ogbeide, who spoke exclusively to Blueprint Weekend, dismissed the idea, saying ‘not again.’

Ogbeide anchored her argument on the non-availability of modern technology to enhance a hitch-free exercise to avoid the lapses of the past.

She said, “Let me tell you, in order to avoid lapses of past years where endless exercise was the order of the day, we must ensure that the new exercise is technologically driven for a seamless exercise.

“Yes, I agree that more security be embellished to further fortify the national identification card, but then if it is not well captured in the budget it has become another burden.

“Look at the way former President Muhammadu Buhari postponed the Census exercise. Do you think it was ordinary? The decision was made for reasons you and I may not fathom.”

Ibrahim Al-Hassan, in his reaction, said, “I am yet to receive the first NIN and I heard we are about to get another one. I still don’t understand why we are lumping up these things.

“Could it be that we ought to have gotten some of these things way back and now it is haunting us or what? What’s the need to rush into all of these exercises and still make mistakes? Or do we simply like making mistakes and keep spending money in this country? I will at this point implore President Tinubu to be different from the lots and save us some money.

“Imagine, the president has the Census exercise to carry out as it was budgeted for and was passed down by the last administration. Ordinarily, it should have been Buhari’s government project but they dodged it and now Tinubu has to carry on. So, I don’t know. I think the government should just mind our spending and consider the masses in all their decisions and policies.”