Problems and Prospects of Identity Management in Nigeria

In this post, we look at the Problems and Prospects of Identity Management in Nigeria. This information is useful for government agencies, policy makers as well researchers. 

According to TechTarget, “Identity management (ID) is a broad administrative area that deals with identifying individuals in a system (such as a country, a network, or an enterprise) and controlling their access to resources within that system by associating user rights and restrictions with the established identity.

Problems and Prospects of Identity Management in Nigeria

Nigeria established the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in 2007 with the mandate to create, manage, maintain and operate the country’s National Identity Database because of its relevance to the well-being of the citizenry, and national development.

In an interview with IT Telecom Digest, the Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the NIMC, Engr. Aliu Abubakar Aziz stressed the importance of identity management when he said, “… identity is perhaps the most important aspect in any country’s socio-political life; identity is important in budget, security and also in planning. Those three things are very important for every nation… so identity will help us in those three major areas to fight corruption, fight terrorism and also enable a trustworthy system of governance.”

Unfortunately, it seems realizing the importance of identity management has not translated into giving it the attention it deserves by putting in place the necessary framework to ensure that all Nigerians are properly identified and the database is properly managed to reap the accruing benefits.

Problems of Identity Management in Nigeria

The identity management system has been fraught with numerous problems. These include:

1. Under-funding

This is not a problem I personally agree with. But he who wears the shoe knows where it hurts, right? So I have to go with the DG on this one, based on his statement.

He considers this one of the commission’s problems and says this has seriously hampered the commission’s progress. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he should be given more money in order to perform. But I seriously doubt that the commission’s real problem is the lack of enough money.

2. Corruption

Yes, the usual scapegoat. The effects of corruption in Nigeria can never be overemphasized. It has become a cliché in Nigeria that whenever something is not working, it is “corruption” that has caused it. With such ratings still coming from Transparency International, why will I leave this reason out? I mean who knows if the very reason the money is not enough is because it is siphoned?

3. Lack of collaboration among government agencies (NIMC, NPC, INEC, FRSC, National Passport Office, etc)

Collaboration with these bodies may just be the solution to the national identity collation once and for all.

4. Incompetence on the part of the NIMC

First it takes competence to do the job of collating data and do it well. But after you have collected the data, then what? Managing it, right? Is the NIMC up to the task? I am not sure most Nigerians think so, at least the NIMC is yet prove otherwise.

5. Lack of will-power by the government

The buck stops here. The government has simply not shown enough commitment. And the result is there for all to see.

Prospects of Identity Management in Nigeria

As already indicated above, the effectiveness of database collation and identity management is hugely dependent on the harmonization and integration of the different government agencies from the telecom regulator, to the population commission to the electoral commission and so on, as well as other database collating bodies like the banks, educational institutions, and health facilities who all collect and store biometric data working together with the NIMC to help it achieve its goal.

See: Nigeria Population and its Economic Significance

It is the responsibility of the NIMC to design a framework that takes advantage of the efforts of these different bodies to come up with a comprehensive database that captures all the important details about every Nigerian from birth to death.

This is not a difficult thing to do if the commission is alive to its responsibilities and is ready to think outside the box.

It is noteworthy that the Director General of the commission stated in an interview that the commission does not lack human resources, but is only short of equipment and the financial strength for logistics needed to meet its goals.

What this simply tells us is that these employees sit around doing nothing. And of course there is always money to pay salaries as they receive their bumper salaries at the end of every month for doing little or nothing.

The NIMC received a budget allocation of 5 billion naira from the federal government for 2017. For a commission that can easily collaborate with other government agencies and even private organizations to achieve its aims, this should be more than enough financial strength.

Back in 2012, the then DG of the commission Mr. Chris Onyemenam had stated that to achieve a seamless identity system in the country, the commission will integrate all existing database system.

According to him, “NIMC will harmonize data from existing government agencies including INEC, NCC, SIM registration, FRSC, FIRS-TIN, land registries, pension/insurance NHIS and credit bureau to create the first integrated system in the history of Nigeria.”

Fast forward to 2017 and we are still as backward as ever. As I write this, I personally do not have a national identity card and it’s not because I am not interested in having one. On the contrary, I am actually looking for one.

Most Nigerians attribute the problem of Nigeria to corruption. I do not, as it is clearly not in this case. I will contend anytime and anywhere that our biggest problem is incompetence. It has its roots in poor education and a weak value system.

Here’s the point, if you have a job to do and you simply cannot do it even with adequate manpower, but choose to blame it on every other thing but yourself, you are simply displaying incompetence.

To be fair to the commission, they seem to have made some progress recently. The problem is how much has the progress been? At the moment, the personal data of most Nigerians is still in bits and pieces. How many Nigerians have their national identity cards whether physical or electronic?

And what is the likelihood that every Nigerian will be properly captured in the NIMC database and easily be identified as such in the nearest future? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Emmanuel Odey is a business consultant and Content Developer at InfoGuideNIgeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Roberts. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Roberts. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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