Olusegun Obasanjo

 Anthony Uwa argues that the implementation of BRISIN system for data governance will make a difference

Way back in 2000, the Nigerian government was told that the absence of data governance instruments constitute a disincentive to meeting development targets and sustenance of long-term development goals.

In order to better appreciate the issues, former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the G8 meeting in Italy requested to know the critical link between data governance and sustainable development in a country like Nigeria.  Although government had embraced and accepted e-government; this as we know, did not detail the fundamental platform for data governance. As such, Obasanjo was introduced to the Basic Registry and Information System in Nigeria (BRISIN), by a group of solution providers led by Dermo Impex of Italy.

The idea eventually turned out to be a lengthy, seemingly unending process. Government officials were at pains to comprehend how this single instrument can resolve almost all ailments bedevilling a nation this complex; considering its various ethnic, religious and other sentiments, outside national vices such as criminality and unemployment, all tied to lack of proper documentation and absence of reliable data. 

 However, to observe necessary diligence and due process, the former president insisted on holding consultations resulting in several presentations made to all MDAs. Subsequently, the Nigerian government sent technical experts to Italy for on-sport assessment and to acquire knowledge and experience on how the BRISIN idea works real-time in Italy before its adoption and domestication to fit into the Nigerian multi-problematic situation.

On its return to Nigeria, the delegation, led by then Statistician-General of the Federation, Dr. Vincent Akinyosoye, obtained provisional approval from President Obasanjo. The former Minister of the FCT, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, made a provision in the budget for a pilot run in the FCT. In 2007, El-Rufai and the former Deputy Chairman of National Planning, Senator Wali presented the BRISIN initiative before the Federal Executive Council where it was ratified and approved for implementation.

As the country grapples with the spate of insecurity, issues about factual personal data on the identity of every Nigerian and almost endless military combat with the dreaded Boko Haram sect, the recent visa ban by the United States has brought to the fore the critical need for data consolidation and management on the BRISIN template. It is therefore appropriate to situate the worsening insecurity and disgraceful hammer of immigrant visa ban by the US to Nigeria’s unpreparedness to implement BRISIN. 

Meanwhile, had Nigeria garnered the will to achieve the BRISIN, by now, data on every Nigerian should have been known and his or her activities monitored. Similarly, foreign nationals living in Nigeria should have been identified and their activities scrutinized. The Nigerian economy should have improved, well-tracked, monitored and controlled while crime and criminal activities should have been reduced to the minimum considering how easy it would have been identifying and tracking criminals, be they terrorists, bandits, cyber criminals and dangerous individuals to their hideouts.

 Terrorism would have left Nigeria because security agents would have deployed data information to further identify, isolate and cut off resources to terrorists using shared intelligence and data to fish out extremists. 

In addition, employment would have hit the massive pitch in every sector with every income earner adding value to the economy by paying appropriate tax to the coffers of government in a productive and buoyant economy; as such, Value Added Tax should have been the hub for internally generated revenue and every commercial and economic operator should have been paying gladly.

By now, health and education sectors should have regained their space in terms of coverage and quality, while social welfare would have been well organised. For sure, investors, local and international, appreciate the value of data for planning and business projections. Rather than our governors trooping out of the country seeking investors, the reverse should have been the case.

Although the annual remittance by Nigerians in the Diaspora is always commendable, implementing the BRISIN project would have further consolidated the confidence of these industrious citizens in investing at home with absolute confidence on reputable data administration which would have comfortably consolidate the Nigerian place as the most advanced economy on the African continent.

Today, a leap in the right direction is the creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The missing link is the implementation of BRISIN system as a base for data governance. This singular instrument is germane to the realisation of the mandate of the ministry, especially in responding to disaster management and effectively managing social development issues on a national scale.

To avoid further embarrassment therefore, it is imperative for President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently consider the need to constitute the National Board of Data Governance with BRISIN as reference point. Membership of the Board should comprise of the National Security Adviser, Ministers of Interior, Humanitarian Affairs, Science & Technology and Finance. The Director-General of the National Bureau of Statistics, five experts drawn from the private sectors and three from the academia should also be members of the board while the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation assumes the responsibility to lead in the coordination of BRISIN implementation in Nigeria.

•Dr. Uwa is the head, BRISIN implementation in Nigeria