NIMC Urges African Governments to Promote Digital Identity

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By Emma Okonji

Following the adverse effect of COVID-19 on global economies, the Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz, has called on African countries to be innovative and in particular, take digital identity seriously in order to navigate the resultant impacts and disruptions which the pandemic was throwing up.

The NIMC boss who made the call in his remarks during a three-day Africa Tech Leaders Webinar series on COVID-19 organised by Digital Jewels Limited, said the pandemic brought unexpected troubles to the entire world, disrupting all plans and projections.

While discussing public sector outlook on the COVID-19 pandemic, Aziz emphasised that the pandemic presented an opportunity for the Nigerian and African public sector to embrace technology and make swift decisions to effect change to suit the current reality.

Fielding questions on the huge disparity in technology adoption between the private and public sectors in Nigeria, Aziz said the public sector had not quite adopted technology, while stressing the need for change management.

According to him, ”The slow adoption can be attributed to factors such as problem definition, policy formulation, political will, the disparity in remuneration, population size, and too many cooks.”

He shed light on what the Commission was doing to scale up National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment.

NIMC currently has 42 million unique records in the National Identity Database (NIDB) and has the mandate of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to enroll all Nigerians and foreign legal residents in the next three to five years through the ecosystem approach, with funding of $433 million from the World Bank, Agence Francaise de Développement (AfD), and the European Union, Aziz said.

On why Bank Verification Number (BVN) and not the National Identification Number (NIN) was used for the administration of the COVID-19 palliatives, he said: “If you’re doing anything about payments you can go through BVN. But NIN is the foundational Identity. BVN and the NIN follow the same standard.

“When there’s a pandemic, the government can readily use what’s available. There is an ongoing harmonisation of BVN with NIN, out of which 14 million has been processed.”

Aziz noted that the Commission adopted the global best practices in data management.

The NIMC ISO certification in 2014, and recent recertification in 2020 is a confirmation of the Commission’s continuous efforts at protecting its data, he said, adding that the process of capturing and storing the data is secured and there are data protection guidelines and a data protection Bill in the National Assembly awaiting passage.