NIMC Director General, Mr. Chris Onyemenam
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Federal Government is in the process of enacting a bill to regulate the processing of personal information of individuals with regard to collection, holding, use or disclosure of such information by persons and private organisations.
Against the background of the rise in personal information theft and controversies trailing public disclosure of personal information/data left in custody of organisations, the government said the bill, when passed into law, would establish rules that would ensure the right of privacy of individuals.
Director-General, National Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC), Mr. Chris Onyemenam, who disclosed this during a stakeholders workshop on the draft Bill, said the bill will not only protect individual’s personal data but would act as a framework for the implementation of the new National Identity Card registration exercise.
Onyemenam said the bill will protect personal information, especially personal data in the custody of institutions and organisations.
He listed the components of the proposed identity legislation to include identity database infrastructure and generation of the national identification number verification system, harmonisation and integration of both the public and private sectors in the process.
He said the national identity number is to be processed in such a manner that no one number can be allocated to two individuals, saying even at death, the number will be rested in the system.
“In terms of the utilisation of the identity management infrastructure, there will be a smart card that will contain all the personal data of the individual.
In undertaking the process of identity management, NIMC is mindful of the citizen’s right to privacy of personal information and how to manage it. The commission has the onerous task of fostering the development of a sustainable identity system,” he said.
According to the Onyemenam, the reason for the forum was to engage the stakeholders and to obtain their input and comments so as to help the commission implement its mandate.
He described the identity management initiative as an enduring programme that will help to address the multifarious problems facing the country.
He said the Commission presently has the infrastructure with a capacity to store over 150 million units of identities and can also duplicate 100 million units, adding that what it means is that “we can enrol the entire Nigerian population.”
He said the commission is pushing for a legal framework that will tighten-up the loose ends so as to guarantee a virile identity management regime.
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) whose speech was read at the occasion by the Director, Solicitors Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Olusola Moore, said the Bill will provide for regulation governing secrecy of personal information and data protection by invoking the relevant provisions of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
The Minister said identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the society today.
He said the ugly situation could be attributed to huge margins for little efforts and risks on the part criminals and inadequate provision for punishment to deter identity thieves, organisations not deploying appropriate security measures.
“Before, people do not consider the value of their customer’s personal information and this was why we thought that the only victims of identity theft were individuals, whose personal information have been obtained illegally. Evidence had however shown that organisations too with thousands of personal information have fallen prey to data criminals. In recent times customers of financial institutions have been tricked into having their personal data exposed to internet scams, “ he said.
While calling for the prompt passage of the bill into law, the AGF, said the purpose of the bill is a demonstration of the Federal Government effort to provide assured and sustainable identity infrastructure which will provide for a crime-free environment.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Interior, Hon. Umar Bature, said there is the need not only to speed up the passage of bills that will promote national development but to ensure their proper enforcement.
“Because we have situations here now where if someone wants to blackmail you, he will go to the MTN to get information and sue in the court. There is no law that will protect your privacy. We want to see that these laws are enforceable to the letter,” he said