Less than 20 per cent of Nigerians are registered in the National Identity Database of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), an official has said.
This is despite the registration and collection of the ID cards being free, Hadiza Dagabana, the Acting Director-General of NIMC said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.
Established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, the agency, according to its website, has 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."
Since its establishment, however, and despite several years of trying to convince Nigerians to register, only over 37 million Nigerians of the estimated 200 million population are registered, Mrs Dagabana said.
This number of registered is less than half the 84 million who registered for the 2019 general elections. This is despite that unlike the voter registration, the NIMC registration is not restricted to people 18 years and above.
Uncollected ID cards
Mrs Dagabana also said that of those who have registered, over 700,000 are yet to collect their National e-ID cards.
She urged all concerned applicants, who are yet to collect their cards, to request for their Identity card nationwide, or request for its transfer if they have moved to a new location.
She called on enrolees, who have changed location in which they registered for the National Identification Number (NIN) to apply for the transfer of their National e-ID card.
The official said that the process allows successful enrolees to request for the transfer of their National e-ID Card to any NIMC Registration and Card Collection Centre of their choice for collection.
Mrs Dagabana said that the transfer request could be made from any of the NIMC Registration and Card Collection Centres nationwide, other than where the individual enrolled for the National Identification Number.
Reasons for Non-collection
Speaking on possible reasons for non-collection of the e-ID Cards, the official explained that some people who have registered either relocated from the locations where they enrolled, or have changed the phone numbers they provided at the point of enrolment into the National Identity Database (NIDB).
"As I'm telling you now, we have over 700,000 cards that are lying there in our offices, that the owners have not come to claim.
"Because when you registered with us you provide a contact number and email address.
"We have spent money sending SMS to the numbers that were provided for us.
"Some people have moved, some have changed their numbers, they have not come to our database to update their numbers, so how are we going to know that you have changed your numbers?" she said.
Mrs Dagabana, therefore, called on such persons to visit any NIMC office closest to them to request for a card transfer form, which they would fill and submit to the state coordinator or local government supervisor for processing.
Corruption In System
Speaking on corruption within the identity management system, Mrs Dagabana advised Nigerians to always follow due process and report cases of extortion while trying to collect their National Identity Cards.
Mrs Dagabana, who spoke at the NIMC office in Abuja, said that the report circulating that the commission demands money for the collection of ID cards is 'fake news'.
She said that the commission was established by law to carry out identity management, and therefore, advised Nigerians who have registered to go and obtain their ID-cards free of charge.
According to her, we have currently established 164 locations for the national identity management registration processes at both federal and state levels.
"The standard is to have an enrolment centre within a population of 50,000 people. When we enrol, the first thing a person is issued is that National Identification Number that is mandatory for us to issue and we issue it free of charge
"We do not charge for enrolment and issuance of national identification number, we have received reports from some locations and schools where some individuals have approached them asking them to pay a thousand or five hundred or five thousands naira for them to enrol their students. That is not from NIMC.
"We would encourage any person that is approached to pay money to please write to the DG NIMC and submit those complaints or go our website and report those kinds of incidents and it would be dealt with
"We will encourage Nigerians that were approached to make sure they take information of those people, maybe their picture, number, or verifiable contact number of those people, so that we will be able to trace those persons and act accordingly.
"Nigerians also should support us and be our watchdog to make sure that we deliver our services according to the rules and regulations of the land."
Role of NIN
The official also said it is not mandatory for any person to go about with national ID-cards, saying the world had gone past people carrying cards.
She noted that people should always take note of their National Identification Number (NIN), which is the number encrypted on the card to avoid any problem.
Mrs Dagabana said the commission has also made its services easy for everyone to access.
"If you want to re-issue or retrieve your NIN, dial *346# with the phone number you gave us on your database. With just N20, you will get back your identification number," she said.
She said that the Commission is partnering with other development-based organisations to promote funding of digital identity management.
She listed the World Bank and European Union (UN) to be among other key development agencies under the UN Sustainable Development Goals assisting the commission.
"Identity management is one of the key points in development goals, and we are working towards achieving targets," she said.
Curbing Exam Malpractice
Mrs Dagabana also said the adoption of the National Identification Number (NIN) as criteria for all examinations in the country will tackle malpractices such as impersonation.
She said although registration for NIN has already started at the Primary School level of education across the country, it should be encouraged to further enhance confidence in the nation's examination system.
According to her, doing so will help to stop impersonation, adding that registration processes for NIN should become mandatory before enrolment for public examinations.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Joint Administration and Matriculation Board (JAMB) announced that from next year, applicants sitting for its tertiary-entrance examinations must have a national identification number.
In the case of JAMB, there are issues, there was impersonation and they were looking at way to remedy those issues and mitigate those issues, Mrs Dabagana said.
"The only way you can identify a person sitting for JAMB examination, is with his identification number issued by JAMB.
"The communication is before you go and register for JAMB make sure you have your national identification number (NIN) because that is what will identify you.
"And you know the beauty of that is the moment JAMB and all other educational stakeholders meet and decide to use NIN that means from that period up to the time you get your any certificate in your life that NIN will be attached to you
"So, if you get your ID that is what will tie you to all the things you do in your life," she said.
She, however, explained that the rules are slightly different for people below 16 years old.
"For those categories of persons under 16, we tie their enrolment - because their biometrics is not yet fully formed - with the identity of their parent or guardian.
"It is only that when you fully reach 16 years, you come back and your fingerprints are taken.
"But any Identity card you get from day one if you are going today and you are taken to register, we register you it is that ID for life."
According to her, your NIN must be attached to whatever certificate you get; then if you have your ID-card, it will be tied to everything you do as Nigerian.
Mrs Dagabana decried inadequate investment in the operations of her commission and urged the federal government to prioritise identity management to achieve the desired goals.