‘Why National ID card remains work-in-progress’
Mr. Aziz Aliyu resumed duty in 2015 as the Director General of the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC. In this interview with MSUGH ITYOKURA in Abuja, he shed light on why it has been difficult to produce the national identity cards and the financial status of the commission, among other issues.
Why does it take long for NIMC to issue national identity cards?
The card is a general multipurpose card that is not easy to produce. The ordinary ATM cards are 4 kilobytes, but this card is 80 kilobytes. Therefore, it is 20 times bigger than the ATM card. If the banks are selling ATM card for 1000 naira, then you can imagine the cost of this card. This costs close to N3, 000; it is costly to produce. It has the electronic identity of an individual and has the advantage of reducing elections cost, so you can understand that the delay is due to high cost.
In the United States of America for instance, it is the social security number, SSN, that is given and not ID card. In the United Kingdom too, national security number, NSN, is given and not card, so as to reduce cost. In India, they enrolled over 1.3 billion people using Athar, which is a number that means the foundation for everything. In Nigeria too, we have a bank verification number and not card. So, why have we been fixating ourselves with card? But if the economy improves, then we can do the cards.
We don’t want to produce cheap cards because we want a card that has chip and is secure because we know who we are. If we do anything low, we will spend a lot of money managing fraudsters. We are working with our partners from the World Bank to come up with a strategic roadmap, which has been approved by government already. If you are coming up with a strategy, you need to have options and what we developed cost US$432 million. It does not have card but digital IT only. If we do smart card, it will be like one billion dollars. So, we decided not to do card but to enroll everybody. We are collaborating with the World Bank, EU and FDA to implement the programme.
What about the allegations of extortion by staff carrying out the registration exercise?
Extortion is not allowed. What we always tell our state coordinators is that when you are sent to a state, you are expected to be transparent because the essence is to enroll every individual free of charge. NIN is mandatory for transactions that require social security, so everyone has to be aware that the exercise is free and does not require anyone to pay for anything at all. People should be reminded that in everything we do today, we require the NIN. Today, if you are registering for JAMB, for instance, or seeking to get your passport, you must tender your NIN. If not, it will be impossible for you. That is why we have registration centres at all the local councils across the country.
There is also the allegation of registration of aliens. How true is this?
First, in this current perspective of identity, everybody must be registered. Registration of foreigners does not confer citizenship on them. Citizenship should be separated from registration. There should be no discrimination. You register them as foreigners staying in your country. The moment you say you are not registering them, you create loopholes for criminals to operate.
You talked about financial constraint. Could you give us an insight into the financial status of the commission?
If you look at our capital releases between the year 2009 to 2010 for the past ten years, you have capital for personnel and overhead. The personnel capital is for staff meant for IPPIS, and overhead is for running cost, which is monthly. We had an overhead of N175 million in 2009, 1.7 billion in 2010 and N548 million in 2011. For 2012 and 2013, we had about N7 billion each. The government promised giving the NIMC N30 billion, but we ended up having this. In 2014, we had an overhead of approximately N3 billion. In 2015 when I came, I met N769 million, which is less than a billion. In 2016, we got N929 million for capital. In 2017, N3.6 billion and N283 million in 2018. I have given you these figures just to be open because there is nothing to hide about what has been given to us.
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