FG plans three national ID cards for 104m Nigerians June

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The Federal Government is to launch three new national identity cards in May this year and has a target of providing them for about 104 million citizens across the country.

The three new national identity cards planned by the National Identity Management Commission include a bank-enabled National ID card, a social intervention card, and an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card.

The Technical Adviser, Media, and Communications to the Director-General of NIMC, Ayodele Babalola, who disclosed these in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, said Nigerians would start getting the three national ID cards within one or two months of the launch.

He, however, said the launch date (May), was subject to the approval of the Presidency.

Babalola stated, “We expect the bank-enabled National ID to meet the needs of the middle and upper segments who typically use banks within the next one or two months after launch. Also, activation of the National Safety Net Card to meet the urgent needs for authentication and a secure platform for government services such as palliatives within the next one or two months. The focus will be on the 25 million vulnerable Nigerians funded by the current government intervention programmes.”

“Digital/virtual versions of all cards will be available for individuals who prefer digital formats, albeit with limited functionalities. Additionally, ECOWAS cards will be issued on an as-needed basis in collaboration with the Nigerian Immigration Service,” he added.

On Friday, the Identity Commission unveiled plans to launch a multipurpose national identity card. It explained that the identity solution was equipped with payment capability for all types of social and financial services.

According to a statement by NIMC on Friday, this initiative represents a collaborative effort between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System. It aims to offer increased options for domestic consumers while fostering the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost-effective, and competitive manner.

During the interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, Babalola explained that the new card would address the need for physical identification by allowing cardholders to prove their identity, gain access to government and private social services, promote financial inclusion for marginalised Nigerians, empower citizens, and encourage greater participation in nation-building initiatives.

He said the commission hoped the cards would be allocated to 104 million eligible applicants on the national identification number database as of the end of December 2023.

He said, “We shall be implementing the following programmes to revive the general multipurpose card issuance; first is the bank-enabled national ID card in collaboration with NIBSS and banks, while the second programme will be a social intervention card under the National Safety Net Card. The third rollout will be an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card.

“We are looking at May for the possible launch but that is also subject to presidential approval. It is just to finalise some very important details. The project will be powered by AfriGo, which is under the central bank but everything stops at the table of the President.”

In January 2023, the CBN launched AfriGo to drive financial inclusion using the card and boost data sovereignty.

AfriGO was birthed in Nigeria with continental aspirations, as ‘AFRI’ means culture, ethnic diversity, bravery, innovation, and growth, while “GO” symbolises progress, empowerment, inclusivity, and future-forward, among others.

This initiative is coming months after the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, announced plans to collaborate with the National Identity Management Commission to ensure the successful rollout and registration of digital national IDs for all Nigerians.

Chaudhuri at a meeting with the minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, said the ambitious target was to provide at least 148 million people of working age with a digital national ID by the middle of 2024, marking a significant step towards inclusion and accessibility.

Chaudhuri said, “So one of the main partnerships we have is working with NIMC to ensure the rollout of the registration so that all 213/220million Nigerians have a digital national ID, beginning, of course, with all people of working age and I think the target for that is at least 148 million people by the middle of next year.”

Continuing during the interview on Sunday, Babalola said, “On our part, we have done the needful but we also have to wait for necessary permission. It is going to be three different cards, one would be for the smooth process of palliative distribution and social safety programmes. There will be another one that is bank-enabled and people will have the choice to choose based on their needs. Persons without bank accounts will also be able to use it and persons living with disability.

“The National E-ID card can function as a debit and prepaid card for both banked and unbanked individuals using biometric authentication, such as fingerprint and picture, to aid identity verification. It has offline capability that will allow transactions to be carried out in areas with limited network coverage. Banking details at the back of the card with chip and pin as well as magnetic stripe enabled.

“While the National Safety Net Card will be enabled for identity and used for all government interventions and services across multiple ministries, departments, and agencies. Among other capabilities and functionalities, this card will be enabled for the eNaira in compliance with the operational and security standards and interoperable with the existing payment system.

“The card will be used for all government social programmes including cash transfers, agricultural loans, student loans, health insurance schemes, micro contributions, micro pensions, etc, with a validity period of 10 years and will be issued based on the government programmes and existing social register. This will enable real access through electronic money and not cash and uplift 133 million people out of poverty.”

When our correspondent asked him to provide further explanations, Babalola insisted that the three ID cards would be launched. ‘’Yes, three cards will be launched,” he said.

Efforts to also get the Head of Corporate Communications of NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, proved abortive as he did not respond to calls sent to his phone number.

Cards available June

Babalola said the commission would activate the bank-enabled National ID immediately to meet the needs of the middle and upper segments within the next one to two months after its unveiling.

“We expect the bank-enabled National ID to meet the needs of the middle and upper segments who typically use banks within the next one to two months after launch. Also, activation of the National Safety Net Card to meet the urgent needs for authentication and a secure platform for government services such as palliatives within the next one or two months. The focus will be on the 25 million vulnerable Nigerians funded by the current government intervention programmes.

“Digital/virtual versions of all cards will be available for individuals who prefer digital formats, albeit with limited functionalities. Additionally, ECOWAS cards will be issued on an as-needed basis in collaboration with the Nigerian Immigration Service,” he added.

Highlighting the step-by-step process, the technical assistant said citizens would have to make requests at the bank and NIMC locations to receive the new cards.

“This is an online request self-service portal that allows NIN holders irrespective of their locations (local & international) to initiate a card request and select their preferred card type, bank, and pick-up location.

“A NIN holder will have to approach his desired bank branch and get verified through the NIMC verification service. After a successful verification, the bank staff fills applicant’s details as listed above on the portal. The applicant then pays the required fees to complete the application process,” he said.

Experts react

Reacting, the Chief Executive Officer of Hyperspace, Oluseyi Akindeinde, said the planned initiative was a duplication of efforts and a waste of resources adding that the purpose of the new cards was currently being fulfilled by existing platforms.

He said, “I think it is a duplication of efforts and a waste of resources because we already have the NIN and the BVN and all the things just mentioned can be used via the current means we have. There was a time when the government wanted to print out cards to identify citizens just like driver’s licenses.

“Honestly, we don’t need a physical card, we could have used a digital one that would be on one phone or a number that represents your full details. We already have driver’s licenses, international passports, permanent voter cards, and the like and I don’t think we need three extra cards right now.

“These cards are not what we need right now and those resources could be better put to use. We already have these things, almost everyone has a bank account and a debit card but creating another one for palliative or identity is not needed in my opinion and I am not sure of the purpose it is going to serve for citizens.

Another IT expert, Chucks Jerahmeel, expressed his reservation about the expansive database needed to fulfill such programmes.

He said, “I think that is a very welcome development but I don’t think we have the technological capacity to effectively implement such. On the card that would enable people to transact, there should be an expansive database to implement that initiative. Secondly, our cyber framework is not the best and we don’t seem to care about data and privacy even though, some strategic progress has been made.

“There are other things the government has to put in place if they want to implement this effectively such as privacy protection and other compliance protocol regulations.”

The new development is not the first plan initiated by the government to issue new identity cards for the convenience of Nigerians.

In 2006, Chams, an indigenous company was invited by the Federal Government to bid for the National ID project for which it competed and emerged as the preferred bidder for the national ID concession.

Upon the execution of the concession agreement with the NIMC, Chams said it pursued the implementation of the concession by incorporating Chams Consortium Limited, a special-purpose vehicle with the sole aim of implementing the NIC concession.

But the project hit a brick wall after Mastercard, one technical partner on the concession was accused of colluding with others using technical information and design shared with them by Chams to frustrate the concession won by Chams and more than $100m Chams/CCL invested in the project.

In an exclusive interview with The PUNCH, the founder of Chams Plc, Demola Aladekomo, said his company got into a debt of N11bn due to the failed project.

In 2020, the former Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, announced an imminent plan to replace the current plastic national identity card with a more seamless digital process to be domiciled in the NIMC for convenience purposes.

Punch

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