The Nigeria federal government recently announced its plans to replace the issuance of plastic national identity cards with digital forms of identification. This decision was contained in the report of the Citizen Data Management and Harmonisation Committee submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.

The committee, chaired by the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, was set up in February following the imposition of temporary visa restrictions on Nigerian passport holders by the United States on February 21.

Yes, Nigeria, the most populous African country, has been banned from the USA in recent times. The U.S. President Donald Trump included Nigeria on the list of countries whose citizens would no longer be able to apply for certain types of visas that can lead to immigration (permanent residency) in January 2020.

The ban is effective on countries with a higher Muslim population, security treat, inappropriate information sharing on immigrants among others. Following this, President Buhari established the Presidential Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization. It has been assessing the six areas of concern to U.S. authorities.

The committee suggests that to effectively harness the data information of citizen, only the National Identity Management Commission should collect and store the data. And all mobile phone users must register with their National Identity Numbers from June 20, 2021.

According to him, once a national identification number (NIN) is issued to anyone, he is already captured in the data bank domiciled with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and can be tracked anywhere. Therefore, if at least 80 percent of the population has a NIN by that point it is likely to help reduce the rate of crime less than 20 percent.

Also listed as the mandatory is the use of the NIN for identification in all government services and the digital registration of births and deaths by hospitals.

Following these announcements, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola was also reported by several outlets, including the Vanguard, saying that the plastic photo ID cards will be dropped and only a digital version will be issued, hence, ostensibly to save foreign exchange reserves for printing the cards.

The minister said, “The card is just for convenience, the real thing is the number you have. With that number you are on the databank, everything about you is there. We are just upgrading it such that your DNA too will be there very soon. Even if you are in a car, I will know if you are the one in the car with your DNA, it’s already captured. You are already captured; you cannot run away anymore.”

In addition to his vision on the digital ID, the Minister of Digital Communications, Dr. Ali Pantami, also said the era of card issuance was gone, adding that the emphasis is now on digital identification.

The minister stressed that “What the chairman is saying now is that we are no more talking about cards. The world has gone digital so that card is no more. Our priority now is the Digital National ID. It will be attached to your database wherever you are.”

“So, if you can memorise it by heart, wherever you go, that central database domiciled with NIMC will be able to provide the number and every of your data will be provided.

“Now, our focus is no longer on producing cards. That card is only for record but what is important is the digital ID and if you notice, we have started using the digital ID on the international passport. Once you have the digital ID but not the card, we are 100 percent done with you.” According to him, the Digital National ID number is already introduced into the international passport issuance.

To back up the Minister of Digital Communications and Minister of Interior said, the Director-General of NIMC, Mr. Aliyu Azeez, explained that the newly-introduced digital identification is otherwise known as social security in the US and the United Kingdom, he said 1.3 billion people could be controlled by digital identification in just about seven minutes.

He added that digital identification would save foreign exchange while other forms of identifications by relevant agencies have equally been linked to NIMC.

“With your Digital National ID, you are already identified. In the US, it is called social security number, the same with the UK and… They can control more than 1.3 billion people in about seven minutes. So, we have found that this card is strenuous.

“It is forex that is going out of the country, and we are in the 21st century and that is why we are focusing on national identification number and other identifications by other agencies have been linked to NIMC,” Azeez said

On August 15, there were pressers that the NIMC had begun its online process for national identification cards. First, you have to download the NIMC Mobile ID app, powered by its mobile services platform (MWS). Android users can visit the google play store to download and install the NIMC Mobile ID app. For iPhone users, they need to visit the app store to get the ios version of the app.”

Despite some initial excitement over the app, the problems began quickly, with a few people pointing out that the app was leaking private information and matching NIN number with another person’s details. Two days after, the app was pulled from Google and ioS Playstore. The NIMC said the app was a “novel innovation” which was not yet approved for public consumption.

Functions of the Digital National ID Card

The e-ID card has provisions for 13 applets out of which five (5) is activated at the point of collecting the card. The five (5) active applets are:

  • Electronic Identity Information (e-ID)
  • EMV Payment
  • Verification – Match-on-Card
  • Security – Electronic Public Key Infrastructure (ePKI)
  • Travel – International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

The remaining eight (8) applets will be implemented in subsequent phases. These are:

  • e-Health Application
  • e-Pension Application
  • e-Voting Application
  • e-Taxation Application
  • e-Drivers’ License Application
  • e-Transport Application
  • e-SIM Application
  • e-Insurance Application

Work is still in progress to actualize the new digital ID card for Nigeria citizen and once this is ready, it will be good to go.

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