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National Identification Number: A catalyst for National Development? - Sustainable Conversations
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National Identification Number: A catalyst for National Development?

“The right to a recognized identity has long been an element in the human rights agenda. The 1948 International Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, contains the right to recognition before the law and the right to a nationality. Yet it was only in 2015, with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that the global community recognized identification as a development priority.

Of the 17 SDG Goals, SDG Goal 16 has different target, one of them specifically addresses the issue of identification and states that “By 2030, provide legal identity to all, including through birth registration” (UN 2015)”.

The National Identity Management Commission has started issuing out numbers to registered Nigerians but the spread has been minimal. The benefits of using identity to achieve sustainable development is enormous.  With a proper identification system, we can improve national planning figures.

The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria, register persons covered by the Act, assign a Unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those who are citizens of Nigeria as well as others legally residing within the country.

The NIMC Act 2007 provides for the establishment of the NIMC, its functions, powers, establishment of the National Identity Database, assignment and use of General Multi-purpose cards, and the National Identification Number (NIN).

  • Every citizen and legal resident must enroll for the National Identification Number. 
  • The National Identification Number (NIN) consists of 11 non intelligible numbers randomly chosen and assigned to an individual after enrolment into the National Identity Database (NIDB).
  • Once a NIN is assigned to an individual, it can never be reassigned, given or used by another person – that makes it unique.
  • In the case of the demise of an individual, his/her NIN is retired once a death certificate is presented to the Commission and the individual’s death is established.
  • The NIN is used to tie all records about an individual in the database and is also used to establish or verify his/her identity.

Your National Identification Number (NIN) is used to tie together all records about you – demographic data, fingerprints, head-to-shoulder facial picture, other biometric data, and digital signature – in the National Identity Database making it relatively easy to confirm and verify your identity when you engage in travels and transactions.

This vital feature of the NIN makes it pivotal for all citizens (home and abroad) as well as legal residents of Nigeria to endeavour to obtain their unique NINs as soon as they can.

To the society as a whole, the NINs issued help provide accurate records about actual living/dead persons in every region of the country help keep track of actual transactions as well as the movement of people within and out of the country help confirm which individuals are in actual need of particular Government services, e.g. age and retirement confirmation for pensioners.

When it comes to access to vital services (like passport issuance, banking services, land transactions, insurance services, pension, health insurance, payment of taxes, voter’s registration, consumer credits, and all Government services), the NIN becomes necessary for:

  • cutting down the time needed for verifying documents to properly identify you to access the services you require
  • reducing errors in the allocation of services to the right people
  • prevention of fraud (419) where someone else impersonates you
  • verification of the real identity of other people you go into financial or business transactions with or even people you wish to employ such as house help
  • ensuring you are properly identified when receiving health services, e.g. verifying the actual blood types of blood donors at hospitals
  • verification of voter eligibility during elections.

The NIN database should be harmonized with databases of other agencies and banks across Nigeria, which further emphasizes the importance of every individual has his/her own NIN.

Catalyst for Planning

With the government launch of the National Identity Care scheme, it is expected to promote transparency and efficiency of government institutions and processes.  The National Identification Number is expected to change the way we do business in Nigeria. One of the ways it seeks to address this is by getting rid of multiple registrations.

Nations all over the world and in particular, developed countries have utilized identity as the foundation to transforming governance and enhancing service delivery in the areas of healthcare, agriculture, voting, transportation, financial inclusion, access to basic service and welfare programmes.

Nigeria’s NIMC has made slow progress in integrating its National Identity Database with the many fragmented identity programs that exist in the country. To date, it has only one link to the Department of State Security, although it has planned future linkages with 14 other agencies via government-wide and fiber-optic networks.  Power is expensive and this adds significant operational costs to the system.

Nigeria has made concerted efforts to increase the coverage of both birth registration and national identification for young students. A 2012 campaign supported by UNICEF helped register some 7-10 million school children and reduce the backlog of birth registrations.

According to the 2017 World Bank Group report “The State of Identification Systems in Africa”, Nigeria has only a draft law on Data Protection.

India as a Case Study

In India, proving your identity is only a fingerprint scan away. In less than seven years, more than 1.1 billion residents have enrolled in what must be the most innovative identification system in the developing world. Each resident can now authenticate themselves at banks, government offices, shops, and a host of other point-of-service facilities across the country by providing only their unique Aadhaar ID number and either a fingerprint or iris scan. Using the number and a scan, they can satisfy Know-Your-Customer (KYC) requirements to open bank accounts, with no need to laboriously assemble and copy documents.

The same identification system can be used in an unlimited range of transactions and interactions: to receive pensions and administer scholarship programs, to monitor the attendance records of public officials, or to administer energy or fertilizer subsidy programs. India’s Aadhaar-enabled reforms of liquefied petroleum gas marketing have shifted household price subsidies to direct transfers into bank accounts; they are already among the world’s largest reforms in the energy sector. Measures are now underway to extend the use of the system to an ever-widening range of applications, such as registering property, filing taxes, and identifying children for school meal programs. Digital payment is now possible from any Aadhaar-linked bank account to any other account simply with the payee’s Aadhaar number.

More advanced digital services are also in progress. Indian residents will soon be able to sign documents electronically and to store key credentials, such as digitally certified copies of birth or school examination certificates, in a secure digital locker opened by a biometric scan. Documents can be shared as desired with potential employers or other entities linked to the country’s digital ecosystem. The process even distinguishes between copies of certificates uploaded by the applicant and those directly issued and certified by the relevant authority.

Way Forward

As a catalyst for National development, the National Identification Number, is a must for Nigeria.  This will reduce unnecessary bureaucratic processes.  It will provide identity to the very many undocumented and unbanked Nigerians. For the private sector, national identification will increase transaction efficiency and enable private sector revenue generation.  The impact for the private sector would be evidenced in the following areas; increase revenue, decrease costs and improve the overall business climate.

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