Will BRISIN engender reliable national data?

Many Nigerians are no doubt worried about the seeming endless attempts by the federal government and its agencies to capture their basic data for planning purposes. While many may have become disenchanted with the duplication of efforts and the time wasted, we are alarmed that huge resources are being committed to achieving minute, uncoordinated and less useful exercises. The latest in this huge-money-for-less-result is the approval of N30.066 billion for the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, for the implementation of the National Identity Management System. The scheme is designed to build a central national biometric database that can serve all needs.

We recall, however, that this is not the first time government will be throwing huge funds to the national identity project. The Obasanjo administration in 2002 contracted SAGEM of Germany to produce national identity cards for Nigerians. The company deployed huge machines across the country but did not issue one card. All that seemed to have gone with the wind. Similarly, in 2011, the Nigerian Communications

Commission spent N6.1 billion and awarded contracts to seven consultants to conduct biometric registration of mobile phone subscribers. This is despite earlier directives it gave to mobile phone operators to register all phone users on their networks. At various times we have been inundated with plans by Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Independent National Electoral Commission, National Population Commission, among others, to embark on biometric registration of Nigerians. There is also the Verification Number being implemented at N7.79 billion for biometric registration of all bank account holders. It is salutary that the Police Biometric Central Motor Registry project has been suspended by the National Assembly while an Abuja high court has ruled against the latest effort by FRSC to fleece vehicle owners of N35,500 for yet another registration.

Already INEC and the NPC are planning separate biometric registrations towards general elections next year and national census in 2016 respectively. Reports indicate that the census commission has submitted a budget of N100 billion. All these are best described as a deliberate waste of scarce resources. Experts have suggested that rather than allow various agencies to embark on separate biometric registration, the NIMC should be allowed to build a central national biometric data to be shared by all.

Development planners have insisted that Nigeria has remained a stunted giant owing to a combination of corruption, inadequate planning and inefficient utilization of resources. It is therefore encouraging that government has dusted its files on the Basic Registry and Information System in Nigeria, BRISIN. The scheme, first considered by the Federal Executive Council in 2007, was stalled by parochial and selfish government officials.
BRISIN is best described as the one cure that Nigeria needs for all its ailments. It is conceived as a national integrated data and information infrastructure capable of providing a solid foundation for planning and socio-economic growth.

It also provides a holistic way of fighting corruption, insecurity and unemployment because it captures full demographic information of all inhabitants in a central pool right from the hamlets to the federal capital. Experts insist that the system, operated in Italy, will run on a robust ICT platform that enables the collection and usage of statistical data on individual profiles including family compositions, internal migration, employment status, agricultural and commercial activities.

It facilitates and guarantees regular and continuous assessment and management of the economy at the national and local levels; keeps crimes under check; creates jobs, prevents corruption; assists in revenue collection; prevents tax evasion and helps in tracking macro-economic data for development.
We urge President Jonathan to personally take charge of this laudable project to ensure its prompt execution if we are to make meaning of our big economic status.