11 April 2019

Liberia: National Identification Registry in Retrospect

NIR Executive Director J. Nagbe Tiah: "We will set up a new biometric civil registry and issue the first one million ID cards, including 50,000 ECOWAS standard cards."

What is the National Identification Registry (NIR)? This is one of the questions that take minds back to the days of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, when many structures and systems were put in place to optimize the country's resources, especially its human resource of 4.5 million people.

Whether those structures and systems truly met their reasons for which they were established or not, is left with the public and the government's partners to narrate.

One of the new agencies created at the time was the National Identification Registry (NIR).

On August 1, 2011, then President Sirleaf signed into law the National Identification Registry Act, which repealed People's Redemption Council (PRC) Decree #65, establishing the National Identification Card System.

In May, 2012, President Sirleaf established the NIR Board of Registrars.

A National Work Plan for the Registry was on Thursday, October 22, 2015, approved for a nine months at the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Monrovia. This, according to the then Acting Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, climaxed a number of key steps that has made the Registry a government fully functional entity.

Varney Sirleaf later became Minister proper, under the leadership of former President Sirleaf and President George Weah allowed him to continue in his role as Internal Affairs Minister.

Former President Sirleaf, having signed into law the National Registry Act on August 1, 2011, appointed J. Tiah Nagbe, former MIA Deputy Minister for Research and Development Planning as executive director, and head of the management team of the NIR.

"He is supported by Zeze R. Reed, Deputy Executive Director for Technical Services, and Mrs. Haja Kumba Liberty, Deputy Executive Director for Administration. This team will enjoy the full support of our board and me, as chairman, as long as they serve with diligence, dedication, and dignity," President Sirleaf said at a ceremony installing into office the new team at the NIR.

The National Identification Registry is in existence primarily to design, establish, maintain and administer the country's National Biometric Identification system (NBIS). This body is to be a modern computerized database containing information for all citizens and residents.

On October 30, 2017, the NIR began the registration of citizens, with first applicants being government officials, among whom were ministers, lawmakers and former President Sirleaf. They received their biometric ID cards valid for a year each and, as of that time, the process has been going on without a hitch.

Due to the poor turnout of people to sign up for their NIR Biometric ID cards, the agency designed strategies, among which has been a vibrant publicity mechanism.

Since then, a number of newspapers, including the Daily Observer, and a host of radio stations have been, and continue to provide coverage to programs and activities of the NIR. Today, April 11, the NIR begins a weekly column in the Daily Observer highlighting the tremendous potential benefits of the digital, social and economic transformation inherent in the NIR's raison d'etre.

It may be recalled that on April 1, 2019, the NIR launched the registration of foreign residents for biometric ID Cards.

About the cost for the NIR ID Cards, Liberian citizens are charged US$5 or its equivalent in Liberian dollar, while citizens of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries are paying US$10 or its equivalent in Liberian dollar.

Foreign nationals, who are not of ECOWAS origin are required to pay US$20 each for the NIR ID cards.

Meanwhile, the NIR is closely working in collaboration with the Liberia Immigration (LIS) on the issues of citizenship identification and all other requirements necessary for non-Liberian citizens to live in the country and carry out activities requiring development programs.

LIS Acting Commissioner General, Moses K. Yebleh, recently said at a press conference in Monrovia that for a peaceful coexistence, all aliens and foreigners should cooperate with his office, which is responsible to communicate to the NIR all details pertaining their stay in the country.

"We are not to discriminate in our work for anyone, but it is good for the people out there to know that the country's immigration laws are respected, because this is a global requirement of anyone, who resides in a different country other than the one in which he/she is from as a citizen," Yebleh said.

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