Nigerians Agonise Over The Suspension Of Nat’l ID Card Issuance

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An estimated  28.5 million Nigerians who registered for the national identity card are yet to get the cards from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). Most of them have expressed worry that, while the development is hindering them from carrying out their civic responsibilities, it may even frustrate their financial transactions, following recent SMS sent by banks in Nigeria to their customers urging them to get their national ID cards.

The banks recently indicated that they will soon commence the enforcement of the National Identity Number (NIN) issued by NIMC as the only acceptable means of identification and verification for all financial transactions in the country.

This development has raised mixed reactions, with some bank customers faulting the imposition of the National Identification Number (NIN) as single identifier for banking transactions. According to them, this could undermine achievement of the nation’s financial inclusion goal.

Recall that some banks have started using the NIN as criteria for banking transactions. A recent text message from one of the banks to its customers stated: “Dear customer, please be informed that the use of the NIN has been made mandatory by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and you will be required to present your NIMC card or slip to enjoy certain financial services”.

The House of Representatives, had on Tuesday, March 6, urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other commercial banks to accept the national identification number as a statutory document for carrying out legitimate transactions in the country.

It also mandated its committee on banking and currency to interact with the CBN and other stakeholders on the need to recognize and accept the NIN Slip as a means of Identification and report within four weeks for further legislative action.

The Green Chamber argued that the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, was established to manage the identity of Nigerian citizens by birth and naturalization.

Although NIMC has been in operation for six years, it has only succeeded in printing 1.5 million cards despite having captured the data of over 30 million Nigerians. This is equivalent to less than one per cent of the country’s population, given the recent population data released by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which placed the nation’s population at 180 million.

Note that former President Goodluck Jonathan, on 28th August, 2014, received his National Electronic (e-ID) card, heralding  the official launch of the e-ID pilot program in the country, in which NIMC was expected to issue cards to 13 million Nigerian.

Receiving the card then, the former president described it as a window to a social security benefit system, saying it is therefore a card every Nigerian should get. NIMC, however, told our correspondents that the emphasis is actually shifting to digital identity and not the card.

The commission’s head of media, Mr Loveday Ogbonna, said, “No doubt, the card is one of our mandates according to our Act but we want to get everyone into the national identity database for now and issue the card later. Like in the US and England where you have social security or insurance number, it is not the card but the number that identifies you.

“The card is an additional token issued for payment and other applications requiring you to present it but even when lost, it does not mean your identity is lost. That is why we emphasise the number which uniquely identifies an individual”.

He also said that the commission was  exploring options of expanding its card personalisation and production bureau to be able to cater for the number in the database already.

Recently,it was revealed that the NIMC had  released some gazettes to guide participants into the business of partnering with it at the front end to bring out the cards faster.

However, according to the management, the NIMC card printing machine had broken down, which is the reason the commission is not meeting up with its mandate.

But Ogbonnaya explained that there was more to it than the faulty machine.

“It goes beyond just ID card machine being bad, which can always be fixed. Card bureau services is a lot more complicated than just the machine as there are other dependable and processes involved,”he

On why ID issuance is not as fast and easy as ATM cards issued by banks, Mr. Chika said the National ID card is not comparable to ATM card in quality, size and functionalities.

According to him, the ID card  is amongst the best in the world with the potential to accommodate 13 applets, adding that the card is a token with chip containing individual data and cannot be compromised easily.

He also identified funding as a major challenge confronting the commission while revealing its plan to look beyond just regular budgetary allocations and explore other partnership options.

“We have captured over 30 million Nigerians but about 1.5 million cards have been printed and a great number is in the hands of Nigerians already, but with the anticipated opening of the landscape for private participation, it can only be better and faster”, he said.

Insisting that the major problem is the printing machine,  a reliable source at NIMC   revealed to journalists that the machines used in printing the cards are bad and may not be fixed in the next five years.

Therefore, advised Nigerians to go for drivers  license as an alternative since the commission was not showing  the will to repair the machines which are badly damaged.

“I can say that those calling in on our offices and websites to ascertain when to collect their cards, should just forget about it because i don’t see it being ready in the next five years. The machine is badly damaged and nothing can be done about it”, the source who did not want his name in print stated.

Many Nigerians whom were seen ranting  at one of the registration centers in Abuja told  Journalists that the situation “is very frustrating and demoralising.“

“In fact, I can’t count the number of times i have been embarrassed by my bank for not having national identity card. I have had to lose cash gifts presented to me as cheques.”

Regretted that his inability to collect the national identity card has left some of them without permanent voters card (PVC).  That the were frustrated after queuing for hours at voters card registration centres, only to be deprived of completing the process when the couldn’t provide  identity card as requested by the INEC official who refused to honour the slip temporal slip with NIN number.

The appealed to the commission to channel part of its allocation to fixing the damaged machines or purchase new ones to aide the process.

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