The National Identification Number goes fully into operation in 2016 to begin the digital identification of who is a Nigerian. By SEGUN ORUAME.
By January 9, 2016, it will become illegal for a Nigerian citizen above 16 years not to have a National Identification Number (NIN). It will also become legally mandatory for all statutory institutions or organisations recognised by law, notably banks and insurance companies, to demand that citizens engaging or requiring their services provide their NIN.
Without a NIN, there will be no legal transactions. Under the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, which establishes the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), it is an offence to carry out any transactions without a NIN. The NIMC Act mandates the Commission “to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria, register persons covered by the Act, assign a Unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those registered individuals, and to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in Nigeria. In a few words, our mandate is to provide an assured identity system in Nigeria through the concept of enroll once and be identified for life.”
Penalty for transactions without a NIN
The penalty for non-conformity with the NIMC Act includes payment of fines to imprisonment. Specifically Act 5.1 states:
“Where a Person carries out or permits the carrying out of any of the Specified Transactions without the production of or and demand for the NIN, commits an offence in contravention of Section 29 of the NIMC Act and shall:
- Where the offence is committed by a registered individual, such Person shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of not less than N50, 000.00 (Fifty Thousand Naira) or imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months or to both such fine and imprisonment; and
- Where the offence is committed by a body corporate, the Person shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than N1, 000,000.00 (One Million Naira) and in addition, the Chief Executive or the line manager or other similar officer of the body corporate, or any other person purporting to act in any such capacity shall be deemed guilty of that offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N1, 000,000.00 each”
The citizen as a measurable digit
The NIN signposts Nigeria’s clear and strongest attempt to account for her citizens and to associate digits to identifiable or recognizable citizenship for better planning and resource management. A national identification number, irrespective of what nomenclature is used in several jurisdictions where identifiable citizens or legal residents are assigned unique numbers, is used to track individuals for purposes of national security, social security, and taxation purposes among several uses. In the United States where the Social Security Number (SSN)applies because it evolved from identifying citizens for the purpose of providing social security, government has since come to rely on it to verify US citizens for taxation purposes apart from being used for multi-purposes beyond its original design.
All US male citizens must, once they turn 18 years, apply for a “Selective Service Number. But the more generally use SSN applies to all citizens and permanent residents. To quote Wikipedia: “An optional national identity number is the Social Security number (SSN), a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents. Its purpose was to identify individuals for the purposes of Social Security, but it is now also used to track individuals for taxation purposes. There is no requirement to have a SSN if it is not required for Social Security or taxation purposes, but in practice one is required for many other purposes, for example to open a bank account or apply for a driving license, so that nearly all U.S. citizens and permanent residents have one.”
In several countries, national identification number is mandatory for the purposes of effective planning. With exploding population growth and increasing level of migration across borders; and the overwhelming challenges for continuous economic development as well as the need to checkmate terroristic activities or national security breaches, many countries have either fully adopted or already deploying more advance forms of national identification number similar towhat Nigeria is deploying through the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the statutory body tasked with performing and managing the country’s NIN.
What’s the NIN?
The NIN is not just an identity card. “The NIN is a non-intelligent set of eleven (11) numbers by which a registered person will be identified for life and once used can never be used again even after the person whom it was originally assigned is dead.
“The issuance of a unique National Identification Number (NIN) that is linked to an individual’s demographic and biometric information would guarantee the identity of an individual. It will also serve as a platform to authenticate and verify an individual’s identity as well as other possible beneficial uses in terms of identity related activities and transactions.”
Will NIN work?
It is likely to succeed and also be sustained. More than earlier efforts, the NIN has enjoyed more robust government willpower even if funding has been a challenge. The NIN under the NIMC got the full support and demonstrative official backing of the PDP-led Goodluck Jonathan government to garner positive public response. Less than 100 days in power, the new APC government under President Muhammadu Buhari has not only endorsed the initiative to ensure its sustainability, the president has symbolically registered for his own NIN as a way to publicly affirmed support for it.
Furthermore, President Buhari has called for immediate harmonization of citizens’ data resting in separate servers of the various public agencies and departments. What the president has done is to speed up the process of centrally managing citizens’ identity data which custodian, by law, isthe NIMC. Full harmonization of citizens’ data gives the NIMC, the primal responsibility to determine who is a citizen; and also it also positions the NIMC effectively as the clearinghouse for such sensitive data. The NIMC may share or clear citizens’ data as may be required by other public/statutory institutions and legally permitted private corporate entities such as banks.
NIN is world-over
Citizenship Identification process has been around for long, but after the World Trade Center tragedy of September 11, 2001 many countries have adopted NIN principally for security purposes but generally for economic planning. Many countries have opted or are in the process of documenting their citizens and resident non-citizens through digital numbering using the essential biometric technology or the more advanced formats such as iris or fingerprint recognition to validate a particular number attached to a citizen.
In The Gambia, the National Identification Number (NIN) consists of 11 digits; in South Africa the identification number is a 13-digit number; Israel through her Ministry of the Interior issues an Identity Number to all Israeli citizens at birth; In Kuwait, the 12-digit national identification number validates a citizen; In South Korea, every Korean resident is assigned a Resident’s Registration Number; In Taiwan, every citizen has a unique ID number; In the UAE, each citizen is issued a unique 15-digit Identification Number, used for identity verification by the government and some private entities; In Finland, the Personal Identity Code applies to citizens; Swedish introduced the Personal Identification Number in 1964 and has improved on it digitally for use in identifying the citizens and for use in several routine transactions; and in China, it is mandatory for or all citizens who are over 16 years old to have ID Number which has 18 digits.
Scattered data and steps to data harmonization
Data collection and data management in the country can generally be described as a nightmare. Many public and private institutions have recognised the use of individual data to provide ease of service and secured transactions. ‘Babel’ aptly captures the approach to harvest citizens’ data. Citizens daily have their data captured by various public agencies as well as private institutions like the banks and insurance companies.
The ‘Babel’ approach to capturing citizens’ data has underscored the continuous carrying out of similar exercises for international passport by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); SIM Card Registration by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); National Identity Card by NIMC; Bank Verification Number (BVN) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the commercial banks; Tax clearance Card by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); and Driver’s Licence by theFederal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
The end result has been multiple collections of citizens’ data totally dysfunctional in terms of cross-purpose or cross-sector uses for security or economic development. The authors of the ‘Mandatory Use of the NIN Regulations 2015’ clearly sought to address this challenge by conferring on the NIMC the primal role of a Custodian of Citizens ID. The NIMC, therefore, has the most overriding responsibility above any other agency to collect and manage citizens’ data. All agencies and other institutions already carrying out similar exercises are under obligation to have their data harmonized with those of the NIMC.
The NIMC director-general Chris Onyemenam told the News Agency of Nigeria that it had already entered an advanced stage in its collaboration process with several agencies including the CBN, FRSC, NIM and the FIRS. This should provide a single framework to determine who is a citizen and also effect tracking exercises for purposes of national planning or security purposes.
Some immediate benefits of NIN
When the National Identity Management System (NIMS) project is fully operational and each citizen is assigned a NIN, all spheres of our national life will be transformed positively.
A very functional NIN will tame fraudsters, allow for proper social welfare schemes and also ensure a better managed health insurance scheme.
- FRAUD suffers! In the Financial sector, the use of NIN holds a tremendous significance. In opening bank accounts for instance, the NIN will help in identifying the actual owners of the bank account. It would make the opening of bank account using fictitious name just to hide illegal funds impossible.
- TAXATION GETS EASIER! It would also aid the Internal Revenue Service through data matching, to identify people evading taxpayer registration or committing tax frauds.
- The use of proper identification, enabled by the NIN makes financial transactions less cumbersome and reduces paper work.
- CUSTOMER IDENTITY EASY TO TRACK/ESTABLISHED! Currently, financial institutions rely on other forms of identification at their own peril as the present forms of Identity we carry are not verifiable.
- CREDIT FACILITIES GET EASY! One of the financial systems that will benefit from the introduction of a NIN is credit management. For example, credit bureaus could organize credit files of individuals on the basis of National Identification Numbers. This will help the credit bureaus to maintain credit histories of potential credit applicants and provide the necessary information to credit providers to base a decision to grant credit. Every credit grantor (Banks) wants to minimize risk involved in granting credit and therefore need reliable information to make sound decisions.
- The success of the NIN policy would form the fulcrum towards the introduction of Central Bank of Nigeria’s Know – Your – Customer (KYC) policy – In short, a major possibility in the financial system is that the NIN system can help make the society a cashless society or reduce dependence on cash.
- EASE OF PLANNING & EXECUTION FOR SOCIAL WELFARE SCHEMES! The NIN will make it more practicable to Administer Social Welfare, Subsidies and Poverty Alleviation Programmes – These programmes are usually targeted at the families within poverty level. But the current lack of proper identifier such as the NIN makes it impossible to target the right category of people, making government programmes in this direction a woeful failure. We’ve seen cases where government effort to dispense agricultural loans, bursary/scholarships ends up at the door step of non – targeted individuals.
- Access to affordable Health Care can be enhanced through usage of the NIN. The NIN represents a key requirement for the effective operation of national healthcare system. The absence of this identifier has made it extremely difficult for the Government to implement the National Health Insurance Scheme seamlessly. The NIN would amongst other things enable Health Insurance companies underwrite health coverage to real people and not “ghost” – Those eligible for the NHIS service can be dependably identified with their NIN.
- Immigration and Passport System would be strengthened with the introduction of the NIN. Countries that border the Nigerian territory today have significant population within us and it is difficult to distinguish their nationalities. This allows illegal immigration to thrive and foreigners are able to obtain Nigerian passports since there is no national identifier – the NIN. – Using the present National Identity Card to check illegal immigration remains elusive. Since it is envisioned that a NIN would be assigned to all from birth to death, suffice to say therefore, it would in the long run from the bedrock for identifying those who are true citizens of Nigeria.
- The NIN provides a cover to checkmate fraud from source – The presence of a reliable National Identity Management System (NIMS) mirrored by a unique National Identification Number (NIN) would help to eliminate most of our national albatross such as advance free fraud, identity theft, and impersonation.
- TELECOM SERVICES LESS PRONE TO CRIMINAL ABUSE! The NIN will help eliminate/drastically reduced abuse of telecommunication devices/nodes for criminal purpose such as kidnapping, blackmailing and terrorism. Within the framework of a National Identity Management System, such as you have in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and many other countries, you cannot access a telecom service without a NIM and as a visitor, scanned copies of your international passport or any other valid ID is essential to accessing such service.