Nigeria: U.S. Visa Ban - Committee Urges Govt to Establish National DNA Data Bank

(file photo).
13 August 2020

The Presidential Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization said it has concluded its assignment and substantially addressed concerns raised by the United States of America on citizen data which led to its imposition of visa ban on Nigerians.

Mohammed Manga, Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Interior disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

He said the Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Presidential Committee, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who presented the report of the Committee to President Muhammadu Buhari also added that out of the six areas raised by the United States, two have been fully met, two substantially met while work is ongoing on the remaining two.

According to Ogbeni Aregbesola, Nigeria "substantially provides information on Travellers Identity except data on Emergency Travel Certificates for Nigerians being repatriated while information on 145, 695 Lost and Stolen Passports had been transmitted to the INTERPOL Database as of 31st May, 2020, following the intervention of the Committee.

"In addition, the Nigeria Immigration Service has now acquired the capability to directly transmit information on Lost and Stolen Passports to the INTERPOL Headquarters in Lyon which was one of the key demands of the United States".

The Committee, in its report, also urged the Federal Government to establish a National DNA data bank, testing laboratories and data collection structures and formations across the federation to support the national security architecture with a view to finding lasting solutions to the security challenges bedevilling the country.

Aregbesola further said the committee recommended the setting up of a Criminal Information Management System to include the establishment of a Data Fusion Centre fashioned after the INTERPOL model for pooling of crime data and a National Criminal DNA Laboratory with the Nigerian Police Force as the co-ordinating agency.

According to him, this is to be complemented by an institutionalized standard procedure for the collection of DNA samples of all suspected criminals in government crime control and custodial facilities to aid criminal investigation and administration of criminal justice in the country.

"DNA is the holy grail of criminal investigation, helping law enforcement to solve the toughest crimes", he said.

Aregbesola added that 14 agencies hold substantial citizens' data which were largely disjointed and in duplicates; and as such the committee recommends that Federal Government should issue an Executive order that would provide among others;

"Exclusive collection of biometric data by NIMC and its Licensees; Exclusive storage of Biometric data in the National identity Database and the discontinuance of biometric data storage of new registration by all agencies and institutions in Nigeria, mandatory use of the NIN by all Mobile Network Operations (MNOs) for issuance of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) with effect from 30th June 2021 subject to the issuance of NIN by NIMC to at least 80 percent of the population and NIN as a unique identifier for all public servants".

The Minister added that the Committee recommended the need for the National Population Commission to commence the digital birth, death and other vital registrations (marriage, divorce, adoption etc) at all hospitals and designated NPC offices in all the wards as well as integrate with the National Identity Database (NIDB) and that all agencies capturing identity data should be directed to commence full enforcement of NIN as a requirement for accessing their services.

He said the Committee observed that an effective citizens data identity management system is a critical tool for planning in terms of national and global security, adding that deterring terrorism and related societal crimes through secure online identification, pre-screening and tracking of citizens; creating interface for access and utilisation of identity related data for delivery of services will help in solving security challenges in the country.

The Committee noted the need to revive communication network deployed and owned by government but has remained redundant over the years as this will help in achieving the required connectivity.

It would be recalled that following the temporary visa restrictions placed on Nigerian citizens on January 31, 2020 by the United States Government, President Buhari had in February constituted an 18-member Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization.

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