The immediate past Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission, Aliyu Aziz, in this interview with ANOZIE EGOLE before his retirement, speaks on the migration process of the agency, among other issues

What does surpassing the 100 million registered Nigerians milestone in the National Identity Database mean to you?

The remarkable milestone of surpassing 100 million records within the National Identity Database reflects a concerted and strategic effort, emphasised by several key factors that included an extensive enrollment drive, aggressive public awareness campaigns, continuous stakeholder engagement and partnerships, as well as enabling policies such as the NIN-SIM linkage policy, the harmonisation policy, the policy on internally displaced persons registration to mention but a few. The implementation of an ecosystem approach where we leveraged the capacities and facilities of private and public sector organisations assisted greatly in the enrollment drive. In essence, the achievement of over 100 million records within the commission’s database is a result of collaborative determination, target setting, and primary focus on NIN generation, unwavering public engagement, and strategic partnerships. It reflects our commitment to building a resilient identification system that underpins effective governance, accurate demographic insights, and improved service delivery.

How is the World Bank-driven Ecosystem project going to impact the NIN?

The World Bank-driven Ecosystem project holds the potential to significantly impact the NIN issuance in Nigeria by enhancing its effectiveness, inclusivity, and accessibility. The project’s objective, which focuses on increasing the number of individuals with a national ID number through a robust and inclusive foundational identification system, aligns closely with the mandates and goals of NIMC. This component aims to reform the legal, regulatory, and institutional framework for the ID system. Strengthening these aspects will provide a solid legal basis for the NIN system’s operations, ensuring that it operates within a well-defined and regulated environment. Data Protection Act is one of the major policies under this component. This component supports the harmonisation of existing functional ID systems and establishes a digital foundational ID platform that issues a unique NIN to all persons in Nigeria, including Nigerians living abroad.

How has the collaboration between JAMB, Nigerian Immigration Service, and others been?

The introduction and integration of the NIN in the immigration process of NIS and admission process of JAMB has greatly assisted in ensuring the accuracy and reliability of personal data for operational processing of the requested services. This integration eradicates the challenges posed by multiple identities, ensuring that each individual’s profile is unified and consistent across various platforms. Consequently, this strategic alignment extends beyond operational enhancements and fosters the integrity of a responsible ecosystem that serves as a cornerstone for national identity and security. In essence, our collaborative endeavours with JAMB and NIS emphasise our commitment to seamlessly integrate the NIN into vital processes. By enhancing data accuracy, mitigating identity-related fraud, and emphasising the NIN’s national importance. These collaborations resonate with our overarching goal of creating a robust and secure identification landscape that empowers citizens, supports governance, and enhances national development.

How can NIN assist in addressing the increasing insecurity in the country?

The NIN significance lies in its ability to ensure that each registered identity is unique, thereby, fostering accurate identification and verification of every person in the country. Through the trusted identification mechanisms and the mandatory use of the NIN as proof of identity by all, utilisation of counterfeit/multiple identities to fulfil know-your-customer requirements will be frustrated and reduced. By doing so, the NIN contributes to an environment where fraud and deceptive practices are mitigated, thereby making identity theft and impersonation more difficult. Additionally, the law enforcement agencies stand to gain considerable support from the use of NIN in the identification and verification of suspects or persons of interest. This synergy between NIN and law enforcement resonates with a proactive approach, enabling us to respond more swiftly and effectively to security challenges. Ultimately, the NIN’s capacity to enhance security through precise identification and the deterrence of fake identities resonates profoundly in a time of heightened insecurity. By seamlessly integrating it into our security framework, we establish a formidable tool that safeguards our nation and bolsters our collective commitment to safety and stability.

You said there are 15,000 active enrollment centres nationwide. Are there plans to create more centres?

NIMC’s plan is to continuously increase the number of our enrollment points across the nation, making it easy for people to access ID services. Beyond physical enrollment centres, the commission has rolled out mobile enrollment devices that are easy to carry into remote areas for NIN registration and issuance. Front-end partners/agents have been licensed and engaged to facilitate enrollment, ensuring that our services reach every corner of our land and in the diaspora. This strategic endeavour not only addresses present challenges but paves the way for sustained productivity and nationwide coverage.

We learned that for over eight weeks now, new applicants have not been able to register due to the migration process at the NIMC. What is the true position of things?

The licensed front-end partners/agents account for over 80 per cent of our enrollments nationwide. With over 15,000 enrollment points scattered across the nation and already using the updated enrollment software, new applicants can seamlessly enrol in these centres. The current migration, which is geared towards the rollout of the updated enrollment software, addresses performance and security concerns coupled with the deployment of the GPS devices and affects only about 10 per cent of our locations, which are NIMC-owned centres. Whilst we recognise the teething problems during this migration phase, NIMC remains resolute and steadfast in its commitment to providing secure and effective identity solutions to all.

What is the commission doing to bridge the gap this breakdown must have caused?

In response to the temporary limitation in secondary enrollment caused by the migration, the NIMC is actively taking measures to bridge the gap and ensure a seamless transition for applicants. We acknowledge the challenges posed by this migration and are working diligently to address them. Presently, a significant number of NIMC centres, more than 60 per cent, have been fully migrated and services restored to the public. We understand the importance of providing uninterrupted services and the impact it has on our customers.

Why is the migration exercise coming up now, even though it was supposed to have occurred two years ago?

The enrollment software migration exercise is part of an ongoing, continuous process that commenced earlier and is broken into phases. The initial phase of this process involved collaboration with our frontend partners, both domestic and in the diaspora, which was concluded successfully. The second phase, which is currently ongoing, is specifically focused on NIMC enrollment and registration centres nationwide. Several factors such as operational readiness, procurement and delivery of the GPS devices and training influenced the timeline of the migration for a seamless transition.  We remain dedicated to maintaining the integrity of our services and enhancing our systems.

How do you intend to address the challenge of high charges for corrections in the NIN platform?

The fee structure for any identity service provided by the NIMC is on our website and we want to appeal to the public to always visit the site for the appropriate fees payable. Additionally, NIMC does not undertake cash transactions at any of its centres as all monies are to be paid electronically via the Remita platform of the government. Do not pay money to anyone offering to help you speed up the NIN enrollment or modification process. Recognising the complexities inherent in correction processes, careful consideration has been employed to ensure fairness in our ID services charges. The nominal fees charged for data update which is N500 and date of birth correction which is N15,000 are processing fees approved by the governing board of NIMC. The existing fee structure has been meticulously devised to strike a balance between affordability and maintaining the integrity of the national database.

What plans do you have for rural dwellers who may be encountering challenges with registration?

To ensure inclusivity and extend our services to every corner of the nation, the NIMC has strategically adopted the ecosystem approach to extend enrollment access to underserved communities and remote areas using licensed front-end partners. We have also deployed mobile enrollment devices that are easy to carry and move around. This proactive approach brings our services directly to the people while eliminating the long journeys to the enrollment centres. Our collaborations with local authorities and community leaders play a pivotal role in facilitating secure access to enrollment services. By working closely with these stakeholders, we create an environment that reassures citizens of their safety, enabling them to confidently engage with our enrollment operators. Additionally, NIMC has harnessed cutting-edge technology, including portable equipment, hand-held devices, and contactless enrollment tools, to conduct enrollment seamlessly in areas with limited infrastructure. This ensures that rural residents are not left behind in the digital identity landscape.

Why was the NIN registration age limit adjusted from 16 years to 18 years?

It is important to clarify that there has been no adjustment, modification or amendment made to the NIN registration age limit. The NIMC Act stipulated that NIN registration and issuance is for all individuals who are Nigerian citizens and those legally residing in Nigeria. NIMC has been enrolling and issuing NINs to children and adults since registration commenced. The NIMC Act equally stipulated that only individuals who are aged 16 years and above are to be issued the National Identity Card. We appreciate the opportunity to provide this clarification and assure the public that the registration for the issuance of the NIN is open to all from infants to adults.

What are the plans on the ground to harmonise the multiple biometric registrations in the country?

A dedicated harmonisation committee has been instrumental in laying the foundation and setting the tone for the seamless integration of these diverse silo databases into the National Identity Database. So far, the harmonisation of databases across functional IDs has begun with the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System for bank verification number holders, immigration for passport holders, NCC for SIM cardholders and many other agencies. The work has been happening in the background, even though there are constraints just like any other project. With the implementation of the strategic roadmap using an ecosystem approach, NIMC will achieve the population of the database through licensed partners’ enrollment, continuous harmonisation of legacy databases and provision of linkages across all functional IDs for digital IDs authentication and verification.

How does NIMC want to bridge the gap between NIN registration and card issuance?

NIMC’s focus since 2016 has been on the registration of all individuals physically present on the soil of Nigeria as well as Nigerians in Diaspora and issuance of NIN. The commission understands the demand for the issuance of the physical card, which is one of the identity tokens issued alongside the NIN slip and it is actively engaged in implementing multifaceted strategies to enhance the efficiency of card issuance for all registrants. The approved collaborative effort with NIBBS by the Federal Executive Council in May 2023 underscores NIMC’s commitment towards bridging the gaps between registration and card issuance. Plans are underway to commence implementation and issuance of a payment card layered on identity to interested persons based on the Afrigo Card project of the Central Bank of Nigeria. In all these endeavours, NIMC remains steadfast in its commitment to enhancing the card production and issuance experience thereby ensuring that the benefits of NIN registration are fully realised.

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