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Enrolling for NIN, a National Call – Aziz, NIMC Boss

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Engr Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, Director General, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC)

Perhaps never before in the history of nations has the issue of identity been as crucial as it is today. From Africa to America, Australia to Asia and Europe, how well or badly each country in each region has fared has depended largely on citizenship identity management. Stressing that Nigeria stands on the threshold of a new epoch in its identity management, ALIYU ABUBAKAR AZIZ, director-general, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), responded to journalists’ questions on the Commission’s current focus aimed at delivering a world-class identity ecosystem for Nigeria:

 

Why is NIMC pushing the National Identification Number now more than the ID card?

Aziz: The focus of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for the next three to five years is on the National Identification Number and not on the National e-ID Card.

We want to make the NIN understandable, acceptable, applicable and appreciated by Nigerians, as an important and intrinsic aspect of their entire life, rather than a physical card, which can be discarded while the number is for life.

Before now, we were focused on the Card but after the country went into recession, we decided to emulate other developed countries like the United States, which issues the Social Security Number, the United Kingdom, with the National Insurance Number; and India where they recently enrolled about 1.4 billion people, and issued them the Aadhaar.

In all these cases, the emphasis – or perhaps I should say the only thing in focus – is the number.

However, this does not mean that we won’t issue the cards, because it is there in our Act (NIMC Act, 2007) that we should issue a general multipurpose card to all registered Nigerians; therefore, we recently gazetted some regulations that will ensure participation of private partners in the Card personalisation services in order to handle the printing of the outstanding cards; but funding is a challenge.

Also, the intention of the Commission is to develop the identity ecosystem with all data collecting government agencies and licensed private agencies, in order to capture additional 50 million records by the end of 2018.

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What advantages, if any, does having the NIN confer on a citizen?

Aziz: The NIN bequeaths citizens with a lot of privileges and benefits. And like most modern economies where the national identity number is a national token that gives citizens access to government social interventions, the NIN also grants citizens certain rights as regards financial access, credit facilities etc. Mind you, in the case of the US, UK and India I mentioned earlier, like other advanced economies, a citizen can’t access any social services such as health, insurance and so on, without the requisite social security number; the number is indispensable.

So, here in Nigeria, the NIN facilitates interactions between citizens, the Government and private sector institutions thereby promoting socio-economic and political development.

Since citizens enjoy a “one-person-one-identity” for life, the NIN therefore enhances citizens’ participation in the political process, enables citizens to exercise their rights, facilitates management of subsidies and safety net payments, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) management and facilitates service delivery in Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

It also enhances the work of law enforcement agencies, e.g. public safety, policing, national security and border protection, and eliminates ghost and multiple identities, etc.

It also enhances the ability of citizens to assert their identity, have access to credit from financial institutions, protects citizens from identity theft – an antidote to identity theft driven frauds which expands access to other financial services including insurance.

The NIN enhances e-commerce by providing a means of payment as it is a tool for non-repudiation and security for financial transactions. It facilitates financial inclusion, hence the advancement of a cashless economy.

In security circles, the NIN is an important tool for the fight against corruption and terrorism; and finally helps launder Nigeria’s image abroad, amongst many others. So you can see that the NIN is multifaceted in utility.

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What role does the NIN play in Nigeria’s planning and security situation?

Aziz: With the NIN, all citizens enjoy a “one-person-one-identity”, which allows the government to search for an individual and all of his/her details either for planning and or for security purposes.

Government can query the database to ascertain how many unemployed individuals are in the system at Federal and State levels, the genders of those individuals, their occupation, skillset, age bracket, location, etc.

This will assist in planning for resources and benefit administration. As you know President Muhammadu Buhari has just signed the 2018 Appropriation Bill into Law; the NIN is a very useful and powerful instrument in assisting the governments – at all levels – budget appropriately for the citizenry, in the proper and effective allocation and spread of scarce resources.

On security, the relevant government security agencies are part of the National Identity Management System (NIMS) project from inception and have access to query the system using biometrics, etc to confirm individual’s identity.

Therefore, as soon as the National Identity Database is fully populated, all federal, state, and local government agencies as well as the private sectors can access the verification platform of the Commission, for different purposes, depending on the level of access granted to them by NIMC.

 

With the national elections of 2019 almost here, how useful will the NIN be for INEC and the electorate?

Aziz: As I said earlier, we are still harmonising data with all data collecting government agencies, as well as concluding plans to start the ecosystem approach which will see all government agencies and some licensed private sector companies collecting data and sending to the NIMC as the sole repository of biometric data.

This is expected to shoot up the record in the NIMC database by a huge percentage. Once we have a good figure, then INEC can leverage on the NIMC Database for electoral purposes.

The plans already on ground for this year include accelerated deployment of enrolment Centres in all Local Government Areas across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, and enrolment of all Nigerians and legal residents including children.

Perhaps you know that children from birth can now be enrolled; this is a point that Nigerians should be aware of, especially with several babies being born across the country daily.

Parents will do well to avail themselves for the benefit of the new-borns of this window of enrolment opportunity that is now uniquely available.

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What are those social services that the NIN has become mandatory for?

Aziz: Pursuant to section 27 (1) and (2) of the NIMC Act, 2007, transactions including, applications for, and issuance of an International Passport; opening of individual and/or group bank accounts, all consumer credits; purchase of insurance policies; the purchase, transfer and registration of land by any individual; National Health Insurance Scheme, such transactions that have social security implications, registration of voters, payment of taxes, and pensions, etc., will be done with the NIN.

With the recent gazette and publication of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number (NIN) Regulations, 2017, the Commission will on a later date, begin enforcement of the NIN for these transactions and more.

Our advice to Nigerians is: do not wait till you have to, go out there and be enrolled before you have to through enforcement, because then you will have to experience crowds and delays.

 

NIMC has enrolled just 30 million Nigerians so far; with a population of 180 million to 198 million, what is NIMC doing to fast track enrolment?

Aziz: We currently have about 30.5 million data in the database with the figures growing daily. The gradual acceptance of the NIN as a means of identification by our partners and stakeholders is also driving up the numbers by the day.

For examples, organisations like the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), etc have all made the NIN a mandatory requirement for service delivery. Others are expected to follow suit.

On our part however, we have commenced aggressive and massive awareness campaign in all the states and the FCT to mobilise people for enrolment.

We are also working closely with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and other media partners with a special target on the grassroots, and it will continue for a long time, particularly with the ecosystem approach being canvassed by the World Bank and its allies.

Also, we have the mobile enrolment equipment which goes to some of the riverine and difficult terrains in the grassroots areas; and a good number will be rolled out by the end of this year.

 

Is there any hope that the entire Nigerian population will be enrolled into the National Database?

Aziz: Yes, of course! However, enrolment of eligible citizens and legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB) is an on-going and continues process.

In other words, there is no limited or specific time frame for all citizens to be enrolled and issued the NIN, because even after enrolling all citizens, there will always be new ones such as new born babies, etc.

According to a recent World Bank report, Nigeria adds seven million into the population every year; that is the size of Rwanda as a country. This means that there will always be enrolment year in, year out. So it is a continuous exercise and the Commission is poised to carry out its mandate to the letter.

NIMC, by design has offices in all the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and maintains active presence with enrolment centres in over 930 locations across these LGAs. More so, we are working to open more enrolment centres and take enrolment closer to the people, especially the grassroots.

 

What are the challenges that could delay the quick enrolment of the remainder of the population which is obviously the greater number?

Aziz: Well, the cynicism from the experience of the past was/and is still a big challenge.

However, we are gradually moving away from that problem as more Nigerians understand the difference between Card issuance and Identity Management.

Secondly, the high cost of opening and managing the Enrolment Centre because of needed stable power supply, active internet connection, low morale on the part of staff because of poor salary structure, the ‘expectation gap’ of “Card” issuance, are other challenges.

However we are slowly moving past these challenges as we ramp up more data into the database.

As citizens, what is the responsibility of Nigerians in ensuring they are enrolled?

Aziz: It is a National call, and all Nigerians are obliged to respond. The government has provided the opportunity, this platform for enrolling into the National Identity Database, to make life better in a modern, well managed and planned manner; the NIN gives the citizens that assurance.

So, if the government has done so much, and all the citizens are required to do is to go out and answer the national call, does anyone have any excuse not to answer the call?

 

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Fewer Data Breaches in First Half of 2018, but Far More Records Stolen – Report

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Digital security provider Gemalto has released the latest findings of the Breach Level Index, a global database of public data breaches.

According to a press release, 945 data breaches resulted in 4.5 billion data records compromised worldwide in the first half of 2018. This represents an increase of 133 percent in the number of records stolen compared with the same period in 2017.

During the first six months of 2018, more than 25 million records were compromised or exposed every day. Only 1 percent of stolen, lost or compromised records were encrypted, a 1.5 percent decline in encrypted records year over year.

Six social media breaches — including the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook incident — accounted for more than 56 percent of records compromised.

Almost 15 billion data records have been exposed since 2013, when the Breach Level Index began benchmarking publicly disclosed data breaches, according to the release.

North America still makes up the largest percentage of breaches and compromised records, at 59 and 72 percent, respectively. The United States is the most popular target for attacks, accounting for more than 57 percent of global breaches and 72 percent of all records stolen.

Europe saw 36 percent fewer incidents but a 28 percent increase in the number of records breached, indicating growing severity of attacks. The United Kingdom remains the most breached country in the region.

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Stakeholders Worry as MDAs Plans to Import Software

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Nigerian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has continued to grow beyond bookmakers’ predictions.

 

However, despite the high number of ICT professionals in Nigeria, adequate attention has not been given to the issue of developing and building local contents.

 

Recently, it was reported that some ministries will be spending a significant part of their budget on the importation of foreign software.

 

This is amidst concerns over wastage and penchant for technology importation of locally available technologies.

 

Worried stakeholders in the sector have urged the federal government to do everything in its powers to support local content in ICT.

 

Chris Uwaje, Director General, Delta State Innovation Hub, called on federal government to create national strategy on software development as well create a park where people can work and come out with productive output.

 

He noted that Nigerian technology space is underfunded and unprotected and thereby urged the government to ensure that 10% of its national budget is earmarked for the development of ICT sector in the country.

 

He explained that local content development is a topical issue in the country, stressing that local content is when a product is developed in Nigeria by Nigerians or anywhere else in the world but the product does not require foreign remittance.

 

Uwaje, commended Systemspecs for developing Treasury Single Account for the federal government, noting that they deserve national merit award for harmonizing government accounts into one.

 

He also called on government to build knowledge labs in our schools to ensure bottom up growth for our children in ICT development.

 

Nodding in agreement, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), assured stakeholders at a recent event that his agency will encourage local software.

 

“I assure you that NITDA will do all it can within its powers to ensure no single kobo of the Federal Government will be spent on acquiring technology that local and capable alternatives exist.

 

“We have charged our local content office (ONC) to continue to be vigilant in surveillance and to be agile in driving enforcement of the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT.

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Nigeria Exchanges 110 Gigabyte Per Second of Traffic Locally

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Nigeria internet ecosystem has achieved a significant milestone with the exchange of 110 gigabtye per second bandwidth of traffic locally, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek has learnt.

 

This feat represents an increase of 10,000 percent over the past five years and 40 percent of telecommunications operators and internet service providers (ISPs) traffic in the country.

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations revealed that in June 2018 the country was exchanging 30 percent of all its internet traffic locally, this means that it added 10 percent in five months as against adding 20 percent between 2015 and June 2018.

 

Explaining this boost, Muhammed Rudman, managing director, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek that the growth could be attributed to level of awareness among Nigerians of the impact of local hosting on the economy, cost of internet as well as quality of service.

 

“A lot of Nigerians are now hosting their servers locally and we at the Exchange have attracted because of our huge size some of the big players in internet content into the country, such as Google, Facebook and AKamai and presently we are trying to bring other bigger ones into the country. Major contributor to this huge increase came from Facebook which has fully connected to the exchange.

 

Akamai is the global leader in Content Delivery Network (CDN) services. Akamai makes the Internet fast, reliable and secure for its customers. The company’s advanced web performance, mobile performance, cloud security and media delivery solutions are revolutionizing how businesses optimize consumer, enterprise and entertainment experiences for any device, anywhere.

 

He added that most of government websites are now hosted locally as well as private organizations. “But in terms of real content such as videos, Nollywood videos are not yet hosted in the country. This accounts for substantially what the other African countries would be searching for in Nigeria, unfortunately this is not yet hosted in the country. We hope that the likes of IroTV will start hosting locally.

 

“Videos are heavy, they occupy a lot of space and the cost of hosting in Nigeria is still on the high side, considering the volume it brings into the country it might cost them far more that what they are currently paying internationally.

 

“Secondly, the movie industry has not taken advantage of the internet for now; aside IroTv there is no other local internet platform that host Nollywood videos.

 

“More so, there is no demand to some extent of online videos. Nigerians are not watching videos online like downloading of a whole movie to watch because the capacity is not there, for instance, if you want to download a movie on you mobile phone to watch and the movie is heavy it will take your data and meanwhile data is expensive in Nigeria and so you might eventually not try it. But, if broadband becomes pervasive in the country and the industry matured they will start hosting locally just like Netflix in America where everybody is watching Netflix just because they have high speed internet access,” he said.

 

Mark Tinka, head of engineering at Seacom, a submarine cable operator with a network of submarine and terrestrial high-speed fibre-optic cable that serves the east and west coasts of Africa, said Most African Internet users tend to get much more of their content from Europe than from the US.

 

“Seacom’s dream is to one day be able to keep the majority of traffic on the continent, thereby reducing the amount of money Africa spends on transporting traffic to Europe. That will also help to drive more Internet penetration in Africa because of a reduction in cost of business,” Tinka noted.

 

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