Nigeria’s newly proposed National ID gets Public Skepticism

In an eagerly anticipated announcement on April 6th, the Nigerian government has unveiled plans for a multipurpose new national identification system set to revolutionize citizen services. The initiative, outlined in a statement by Kayode Adegoke, Corporate Communication Lead of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), promises to streamline access to essential services while incorporating cutting-edge payment functionalities.

Central to the proposal is the integration of payment capabilities through AfriGo, a national card scheme developed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for seamless domestic transactions. Collaborating with the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), NIMC aims to leverage existing infrastructure for enhanced service delivery.

This initiative marks a significant step in Nigeria’s ongoing efforts to modernize identification systems. Over the past decade, citizens have navigated various identification protocols, including national ID cards, bank verification numbers (BVN), and national identification numbers (NIN). However, the proposed system aims to simplify these processes by offering a multifunctional national ID card, a social intervention card, and an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card.

Despite the ambitious goals of the new system, early reactions from Nigerians, particularly on social media, suggest mixed sentiments. Some express concerns about the perceived complexity and redundancy, citing previous experiences with identification schemes.

In light of past challenges, including logistical hurdles and public skepticism, the government faces scrutiny over its ability to effectively implement the new system. Tech journalist Idris Abubakar highlights 14 years of previous failed attempts and raises questions about the current administration’s approach.

“They have failed each time. Under a new Minister of Interior, an individual with a controversial track record, it’s clear that the NIMC will push ahead with the same idea. Contracts will go out, but no work will be done,” he said.

“The most interesting thing about all things is that it is never in the masses’ favor but an avenue to loot and create an unnecessary inconvenience for the masses. From NATIONAL ID CARD, BVN, NIN, and now, A new National ID CARD,” @Akewusolaf commented.

In another opinion, @MikaelCBernard says, “This is unnecessary. A simple plastic ID with a QR code to verify is enough. You’re not a fintech, leave credit card issuing alone”.

During the years 2021 and 2022, the government earmarked more than N50 billion (approximately $38 million) to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for the acquisition of cutting-edge equipment for NIN registration. Despite this substantial investment, Nigerians faced the challenge of meeting registration deadlines and linking their identification numbers with their SIM cards. In response to this imperative, the country’s telecommunications regulatory body intervened by temporarily blocking unlinked phone lines, emphasizing the urgency of the registration process.

Furthermore, NIMC worsened the situation by stopping third-party agents from helping with NIN enrollment.

Moreover, criticisms have emerged regarding the efficacy of the existing NIN system in addressing security challenges such as insurgency and kidnapping. Critics question whether the proposed enhancements will adequately address these concerns.

Notably, the 2024 Digital Identity Fraud in Africa Report by Africa’s leading identity verification startup, Smile ID, underscores the urgency of robust identity solutions in Nigeria. Nigeria’s national identity document ranks 9th among the most vulnerable on the continent, highlighting the need for comprehensive reforms to enhance security and reliability.

Furthermore, as Nigeria navigates the complexities of modernizing its national ID system, stakeholders await further details on implementation strategies and safeguards to address prevailing challenges.

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