Aliyu Aziz: Reliable Identification Data Can Kick-start Digital Economy



The National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, is one of the least reported agencies of government, yet it is one of the most strategic in terms of national planning digital economic management. Aliyu Aziz, the director-general and chief enrolment officer of the Commission, in a recent paper, highlighted the strategic importance of the agency to the country and her future. Samuel Ajayi reports

The director-general and chief enrollment officer of the National Identity Management Commission, Aliyu Aziz, NIMC, is a very determined man. He knows the enormity of the job in his hands and the fact that he is dealing with a very fastidious populace that takes nothing but good service delivery from any government agency.
The task before Aziz is not just to deliver a reliable identity management regime for the country, but also providing a platform on which data supplied by the Commission could be used to develop a framework for an evolving digital economy. Delivering a paper at the just concluded Indo-Africa ICT expo held earlier in the month, Aziz tried to establish an interface between the services the NIMC provides and how these could be used to develop a digital economy that relies on accurate identification data.

Established in 2007, the National Identity Management Commission was set up to among other things establish a national Identity Database, provide identity services like authentication and verification, issue unique identifier known as the National Identification Number, NIN, harmonize and integrate existing identity databases, issue a GMP national ID card. The Commission was also set up to regulate the Nigerian identity sector.
And the mission of the commission, according to Aziz, is to “provide sustainable world-class identity management solution to affirm identity, enhance governance and service delivery in Nigeria by 2019” while the mission is to “establish and regulate a reliable and sustainable system of National Identity Management that enables a citizen or legal resident affirm their identity in an environment of innovation and excellence.”
How easy has this been? In his paper at the exhibition, Aziz said the Commission has faced the challenges of putting the regulatory framework together. And the most challenging of this was putting in place the NIMS infrastructure.

“After many challenges over the years, putting the regulatory framework together (and) building the NIMS infrastructure The Commission embarked on an enrollment strategy in 2012, which has grown exponentially since 2015. The current goal is 10X: to have enrolled 10 times the number of the previous year,” Aziz explained.
And the Commission seems to be achieving that. It registered just 60,000 Nigerians in 2012 and by the 2015, it had registered seven million and by 2017, the figure had risen to 28 million Nigerians. Aziz feels these were still not enough. And many Nigerians share his sentiments. But all indications show that the Commission is in the right direction going by the quantum of work it has been able to achieve since he came in as the chief executive of the Commission.

One of the arguments in favour of the Commission is that if the agency is well funded and given all the necessary logistic and legislative backing, the number of biometric registrations being done in the country will be unnecessary.
Ade Olabode, a top integrated marketing communications expert, told THISDAY that if NIN is given to residents, so many identification problems would be solved.
“If you have the NIN and you want to get a passport or a new one, all the Immigration needs to do is to use the NIN number you provide them to get all your details and a passport will be issued to you or an expiring one is renewed. In the same vein, if you want to do a Driver’s Licence and you are asked to go and capture, to me, it is totally unnecessary and waste of time, energy and resources. Your NIN provided by the NIMC should be enough for you to do this and get your Driver’s Licence within day,” Olabode told THISDAY.

One area Nigerians have never agreed is the area of population. Figures have always been disputed with claims and counter-claims of figure inflation to favour certain sections of the economy. But another public affairs analyst, Joe Eboh, said the NIN is capable of putting these issues into the cooler forever.
“If the NIMC issues NIN to every resident of this country, it is already in the system and no one can challenge that. And now, if there is no one complaining that he or she has not gotten his or her NIN, then population figure has to tally with the number of NINs that the NIMC has issued out. That is why I think the Commission has to be strengthened to be able to meet this task,” Eboh said.

Former THISDAY editor and publisher of The Cable, an online newspaper, Simon Kolawole, once submitted in his weekly column in this newspaper that there was no point asking citizens to do multiple biometrics. Banks, schools, immigration and other bodies often ask Nigerians to do biometrics and fingerprinting. But Kolawole argued that there was no need for this if there is a data bank where this information could be accessed.
In his paper at the expo, Aziz said the NIMC is equipped to provide the backbone for a digital economy using reliable personal data of the country’s residents. He said to achieve this, the NIMC is currently harmonizing data sources from the Nigerian Immigration Service, the National Communications Commission and the National Driver’s Licence (through the Federal Road Safety Commission), banks as well as the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Aziz submitted that presently, the nation has the National Population Commission, but in future, this might not be needed again. According to him, the data provided by the NIMC could be used for taxes, voter’s card, social services, policing (security), telecommunications (SIM registration), pension, passport issuance and renewal, commercial activities, digital inclusion, driver’s licence, education, financial dealings, health care services and many others. To him, what all these suggest that there might not be need for an agency dealing with population issues as reliable data from the NIMC can take care of this.

Aziz, in his paper, said benefits of the harmonised personal identity data included a system of one person one identity, enhancing participation in the political process as well as being an important tool for fight against corruption and terrorism. Other benefits, Aziz claimed, included enabling citizens to exercise their rights; facilitating management of subsidies and safety net payments, IDPs and service delivery in MDAs.

His words: “The NIMC also enhances the work of our law enforcement agencies in the area of public safety, policing, national security and border protection; helps launder Nigeria’s image; eliminates ghost and multiple identities; enhances ability of citizens to assert their identity; enhances access to credit from financial institutions; helps protect citizens from identity theft and also an antidote to identity theft driven frauds and it expands access to other financial services including insurance.”
In the area of digital economy, Aziz said the NIMC enhances e-commerce by providing a means of payment; tool for non-repudiation and security for financial transactions; facilitates Financial Inclusion and hence cashless economy and enhancing credibility of Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes.

No doubt, the NIMC is one of the least reported development agencies of government in the country. Yet, Aziz said, among other things, that modern economic services are done digitally and rely on good identification as he added that “firms aiming to scale up the digital economy may not be able to offer innovative.”
That task might be daunting, but as the Chinese say, the world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going. Engr. Aliyu Aziz seems to know his destination as far as the National Identity Management Commission is concerned.
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