The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) announced last week that implementation of the mandatory use of National Identity Number (NIN) has commenced from the beginning of 2019. NIMC’s Director General Engr. Aliyu Aziz said federal government ministries, agencies and departments that take records of personnel or provide services requiring the identification of a person shall, from January 1, 2019 mandatorily demand for NIN from citizens in order to offer them government services across the country.
He said ministries and agencies such as Education, Aviation, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, National Population Commission, Independent National Electoral Commission, Corporate Affairs Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria Communications Commission, National Health Insurance Scheme, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Nigeria Police Force, Security and Exchange Commission must request and verify the NIN as already adopted by Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Road Safety Commission and National Pension Commission.
Although the DG said “the agencies providing services listed under Section 27 of the NIMC Act and Section 1 of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations 2017 shall from January 1, 2019 demand the NIN from citizens or legal residents before offering them any services”, he equally allayed fears of the public on any possible act of exclusion from government services after the cut-off date. He said no one shall be denied government services on account of not having NIN.
To say that use of NIN to access government services is now mandatory and then assure Nigerians of enjoying the same services without NIN sounds contradictory. However, further clarifications by NIMC’s boss cleared the doubts. He said NIMC has a mandate to register all Nigerians and legal residents or at least over 95 per cent of the population within the next three years; adding that the current economic realities in the country will not permit NIMC to have offices or enrolment centres in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria. Instead, the federal government approved the new digital identity ecosystem, which mandates all government agencies earlier mentioned and private sector organisations to be licensed by NIMC, to collect citizens’ data using guidelines issued by NIMC; and through secure approved channels of communication, send such data to NIMC to generate NINs.
It would be recalled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its meeting on September 12, 2018 approved the new National Digital Identity Ecosystem Strategic Roadmap for the enrolment of Nigerians and legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB). Benefits of NIN include providing robust basis for financial planning and management of insightful budgetary scheme. Engr. Aziz said that “without knowing who the people are, no government or private sector will be able to effectively deliver important services such as social safety net, elections, agriculture, pension and education, among others.” According to him, “identity is a pre-requisite for a country’s economic, social and political progress and development,” because “good identification works hand-in-hand with greater use of internet, payments and skills for a vibrant digital economy”.
The DG also said beyond the term ‘digital’ inclusion through NIN are issues about quality of life, democracy, exclusion and who gets what, when and under what circumstances. He listed the gains of digital inclusion to also involve social interaction and cohesiveness, well-being, personal health, economic and life changes, self-efficacy, skills and capabilities as well as civic engagement and participation.
Awareness about NIN even among urban settlers in Nigeria is still low. We therefore encourage NIMC to embark on comprehensive enlightenment campaigns through print and electronic media to educate Nigerians especially residents of rural areas on the importance of NIN and the procedure for obtaining it. Nigerians who already knew of the benefits of NIN are certainly eager to have it. For ease of access to enrolment, post offices, commercial banks and schools are suggested to be certified by NIMC as registration centres since many Nigerians, more often than not, have needs to visit these public places.