The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), has revealed that at least 140 million Nigerians are yet to enroll for the National Identity Number (NIN) in the country, even though 64.4 million unique NINs have been issued to Nigerians.
NIMC said within the last one year, about 22 million NINs, following the mandatory directive of the Federal Government on NIN-SIM linkage, were added to the previous 42 million NINs, to increase the figure to 64 million.
The Director-General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, disclosed this at a webinar organised by the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) with the theme: “Citizen’s Identity Management in a Digital Economy.”
Aziz said the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the NIMC, with support from other stakeholders in the industry, are working to ensure that about 140 million Nigerians, who are yet to get NIN, have it by March 2022, that is, in another six months time.
The NIMC DG, who represented the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, said since December 15, 2020, when the journey of the SIM-NIN registration started, achievements recorded so far have been through collaborations.
On his own, Aziz, while appreciating the telecoms operators for their support thus far, said that there has been astronomical growth in enrollment, despite challenges, including lack of addressing systems, lots of backlogs of citizens that are yet to register and backend issues.
The NIMC DG said the backend issue has been a major problem that it has been addressing.
Aziz, who said more than 150 countries now require an identity database, noted that “in the next six months, NIMC wants to ensure it enrolls the remaining 140 million Nigerians yet to be captured. At least to scale data capturing to about 65 per cent.”
Speaking on the journey so far, NIMC official, Chuks Onyebunika, said 203 partners were licensed as data capture agents/front end partners, over 4,768 enrolment centres established across the nation, 8, 520 active enrollment devices used by NIN registration, 8753 enrollment operators trained, while 64.4 million lines have been linked with NIN.
Further, Onyebunika said diaspora enrolment has been carried out in about 25 countries of the world; contactless biometric capture kit launched for enrollment, while 12 million mobile downloads of the NIMC Mobile Id app recorded with over 47 million digital profiles created.
He said N25 billion was approved by FEC to upgrade the critical ID backend infrastructure.
On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who was represented by a director, Abigail Sholanke, said the NIN policy is perhaps the best so far, stressing that the telecoms sector’s role in identity management cannot be overemphasised.
Danbatta said the Commission will come up with the necessary identity management framework to complement efforts thus far.
Speaking during the panel session, the President of, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMs), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, wants identity management to impact citizens’ lives. He stressed that managing the identity of citizens goes beyond the figure, “how does it translate to better living for the people.
According to him, what is happening in Zamfara, Katsina and others call for serious scrutiny; there is a need to ensure NIN-SIM purposes work in those areas by tracking the criminal elements.
The NATCOMs president is also worried about those who are yet to register and have not linked their SIM to NIN in places where telecoms services have been shut down, stressing that the October 31 deadline needs to be reviewed.
Corroborating Ogunbanjo, the Nigerian Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Olusola Teniola, said the journey is still far, stressing that the sector contributing hugely to the country’s economy cannot be punished by simply disconnecting unlinked SIMs.
“Unique identity is key, but some legacy issues must be addressed adequately well,” he stated.
From his perspective, representative of 9mobile, Ehimare Omoike, telcos have done a lot to support the process, “but infrastructure remains a key enabler in achieving 65 per cent NIN penetration. About 150,000 devices are needed to further deepen the process. This requires having agents and training them. To train costs about N5000 per device, so about N1 billion may be needed to get this done.”
He called on NIMC to help telcos on Service Level Agreement (SLA) in the management of the identity exercise.
On her part, MTN’s representative, Ugonna Nwoye, said NIN penetration is still just about 30 per cent of the population, stressing that NIMC should scale the process, especially to rural areas, which have not seen any significant process.
Nwoye, who disclosed that the operators are set to deploy about 80, 000 devices for NIN activation in rural and semi-urban places, said the industry has submitted about 100 million NIN as of August and a larger percentage have not been verified due to backend challenges on the part of NIMC. In fact, less than six per cent verified, but we hope that the recent funding of NIMC should scale the process.”
According to her, the October 31 deadline is not feasible because many people are yet to enroll.
Chief Executive Officer of nTel, Omotoba Babatunde wants faster harmonisation of all the disparate dates, stressing that it is the beauty of a digital economy, which would help prevent corruption, crime and criminality.
Omotoba aligned with Nwoye, stressing that so many newly generated NINs are yet to be verified and input on the identity board, “but NIMC has been very cooperative.”
From the Chairman, ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, the webinar is necessary to know the status of things and what should be done to fast track the process.
Representing Smile Communications, Andrew Enebeli, the new identity management process should be an integral part of enhancing the ease of doing business in Nigeria, stressing that seamless transactions from telcos to NIMC backend should be a priority.