• Targets 170m Nigerians by 2019
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The federal government has concluded plans to make National Identification Number (NIN) compulsory for obtaining an International Passport even as it targets to reach over 170 million Nigerians at the end of 2019.

President Muhammadu Buhari while declaring open the ongoing fourth Annual Government Forum on Electronic Identity in Africa tagged: ‘ID4-Africa 2018,’ said his administration would pursue single national identity system for all citizens in order to carry out its mandate in social and economic development, law enforcement, intelligence and political development.

Buhari who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha,  said the theme of the summit: ‘Harmonisation of Identity Schemes’ is of utmost importance to Nigeria.
According to him, identity forms the nucleus of our daily activities, cutting across several sectors of the economy.

He said: “As a responsible government, we are extremely aware of the importance of gravitating towards e-Governance. The federal government has long recognised the need to have a single national identity system for all citizens in order to carry out its mandate in social and economic development, law  enforcement, intelligence and political development.

“In 2017, the federal government issued the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) as its overall strategy to drive the country’s economic development.   As part of ERGP, the government plans to deliver key services, including safety nets, agriculture development, food security, energy, transport and enterprise development, while strengthening the macro fiscal environment, investing in people, and developing a local digital economy.”

“Through the process of Harmonisation of Identity Schemes, in Nigeria, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) grew the database from 7 million to  14 million by 2016 and from 14 million to 28 million in 2017. Our target is to grow the database to 50 million by December 2018 and subsequently 70 million by December 2019.”

In this regard, Buhari said Nigeria was convinced that for businesses and innovation to thrive in Africa, a digital strategy to develop global reputation for technological leadership and business dynamism is essential.

This, he noted, entails building digital ecosystems; Investing in smart infrastructure, platforms, and services; Identifying and nurturing digital talents; digitizing our records and classifying them accordingly; as well as reviewing and upgrading the legal and regulatory framework.
According to the president, a robust identity management system with quality data is key for every emerging economy.

He said that Nigeria, and by extension Africa, must leverage on its digital identity as a reliable tool for socio economic development.
mphasised. We must therefore ensure absolute integrity and security of this information.
He continued: “As a nation of over 180 million people, it is important that we develop an integrated and connected system to ascertain that an individual is truly who he claims to be.

“I am particularly happy that International delegates, major arms of government, the private sector, diplomats, and other development agencies are participating. The importance of this summit in optimising the benefits of digital identity and leveraging its use for accelerating development prompted Nigeria’s decision to host it. The International community, especially the developed countries have adopted identity as a tool for transformation of governance and service delivery in areas such as: transportation, financial inclusion, immigration, healthcare, social safety nets, agriculture, security and so on.

“According to the World Bank Group 2017 report, with increased access to identification, over 38 million Africans could open their first bank accounts upon receiving proper documentation. A total value of $800 million in social safety net programs will benefit the citizenry from improved targeting and management. 4.4 million refugees and stateless persons in sub-Saharan Africa could also  have access to better protection and humanitarian assistance.

“Digital identity can transform the efficiency of safety nets with electronic cash transfers; track immunisation of children and delivery of health care to citizens; issue driver’s licenses linked to a digital identity registry and track border control and issue passports linked to a digital identity registry.”

He noted that the inclusion of the provision of legal identity for all as a Sustainable Development Goal also reflects its importance as a global development issue.
In the same vein, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede, noted that Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) is an important government agency even though it has only 10 million Nigerians on its database.
Babandede also disclosed that the President has directed the service to link up its database with NIMC and ensure that NIN is henceforth used as a criteria for obtaining a valid international passport.

“Immigration is a key government agency, even though we have only 10 million Nigerians in our our database. However,  this number represents a unique data because it contains most of the Nigerian elite including the politicians, diplomats and business class.

“To this end, the president has directed us to line up with NIMC so that before you can obtain your passport you have to provide your NIMC Number (NIN),” he said.
Also speaking, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Corps Marshal, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, said that about 10 million Nigerians have Drivers’ Licence.

Earlier, the Executive Chairman of ID4Africa, Dr. Joseph Atick,  commended NIMC for organising the event which was attended by over 1500 delegates representing government agencies from 47 African nations, 20 international development agencies and over a 175 international, regional and local technology and solution providers.

Atick said Nigeria is well on its way to harmonise its identity practices alongside some other African nations.
He said over the course lf three days, the conference will explore the application of identity not only for socio-economic development, but also for humanitarian action, security and facilitation, througj a rich and diverse programme  featuring a line up of 113 world class speakers.