Last week Chris Oyemena, the Director General of the National Identity Management Commission was in Lagos to brief senior editors of major newspapers in the country of the progress made in the drive for Nigerian to hold a new national identity card. He said the new ID card is a smart card that will promote financial inclusion in the country among other uses.
What is the major difference between the old and this new national ID card?
The major difference or one single difference is that this one is a smart card, is an intelligent card, let me use that word, but the previous one is not a smart card, is a 2D barcode and whilst the previous one was based on cards as an ends in itself, this new card is just one of the component of a broader scheme that enables you to affirm your identity.
One challenge about National ID cards is the question of non Nigerians smuggle into holding the card, how are you ensuring that only those identified as Nigerians will get this new national ID card.
There is obvious reasons why this is a daunting challenge because around us, aside from the sea, is all neighbouring countries that their GDP and standard of life is something that they will always want to claim to be Nigerians. Even in football they did it and do not forget is a fellow Nigerian that helped that footballer that is alleged to hold a Nigerian passport and yet he is not a Nigerian. The point is that this challenge will always be there and is real.
What we done in view of the fact that we have our borders the way they are?
I do not need to explain that to you, you know. What we have done is to use what is reasonably available in such a manner as not to discourage enrolment, we use traditional rulers, when they introduce, we use birth certificates, we use combination of your declaration of age, certificate of indigeneship, letter from a senior citizen, international passport, drivers licence to confirm your claims that you are a Nigerian.
Even if you do not have any of these, it is important to note that our people, particularly those in those areas where border towns are not too far off, we try to understand the way you speak, we know some of the addresses and some of the claims you fill out are some of the things that the enrolment officers have been trained because even aside from Federal character, the fact that in catchments area we have recruited people that can help us bring some of these knowledge, skills and understanding into play in the enrolment process. There are certain questions that are asked when they see your name, there are certain questions that are asked when they hear your voice and therefore it is possible for you to question in a polite manner and any one they are not satisfied with, the enrolment centre supervisor then takes it over.
In every enrolment centre there is an immigration officer to confirm whether you are a Nigerian or not.
It is not that we cannot register non Nigerians but there are conditions for registering them; they must be legal residence and their document issued by Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and they are on ground to confirm that yes, this is issued by us. The important thing in all of these is that it is not our responsibility to confirm citizenship but it is our responsibility to establish identity, even if it is the identity of a non Nigerian, so that all the benefits especially security, you can take advantage of the data base to do it because non Nigerians also commit crimes.
What is the update on the President directive that there should be harmonization of biometrics data in Nigeria?
Part of the update is what we have done and I have discussed, which is that we have fibre connections to 14 of them that we consider critical in terms of meeting the threshold of identity data that is considered significant to warrant the fibre connections, others are web service. On the cards that we are distributing there are outlets that address the issue of harmonisation with these institutions, about eight of them. Thirdly, we are now in the process of taking each component of their own process and saying this should be tweaked this way and it will become part of our process, this should be discontinued because this process is enough, so that requires painstaking processes and we have different committees of between three and five for each of them.
Periodically the harmonisation and integration implementation committee meets to monitor how work is going, before we did all of that, the card, the fibre connection, and this scripting that we are talking about, we sat down at several meeting and agreed on the business rule, agreed on a uniform demographic standard and uniform standard that is now being implemented. It is through these four approaches that the integration will take off. For some people it will take off earlier and for others it will take off much later, it is in that sense that, for instance, the bank verification number capture, will not continue that way, they are going to stop what they are doing, adjust it to fit what we are doing before they continue.
What measures have you put in place to encourage other banks to buy in into the project?
As I speak, 13 banks have signed agreement with us, all of them have agreement, some have submitted, some haven’t. All of them have indicated interest we have accepted their interest. Central Bank by a letter specifically said to us, please encourage and ensure that all payment platforms and all deposit money banks are given the opportunity to participate and as I speak at least 10 have executed their agreement and like I said, we have decided that in doing the pilot, lets not take so many banks, take one, so when you have understood the process very well and done it very well, you can then replicate.
Are you under any form of pressure from other payment platform like Visa?
Well you could see it from this way, if local payment platforms feel that Master card is a foreign company and complain, it must be in the sequence because the pilot project is being done with Master card, but not that they are not part of this scheme.
Don’t you think it is better to bring this thing nearer the people by creating more centre especially in Lagos?
In Lagos, Onotsha and Anambra State, we have that increasing challenge, but before now our problem was that we did not have enough people coming out, so we currently are handling it. Let us not forget the fact that data collection as a part of the names value chain was actually suppose to have been a private sector supported thing, it was concession out. The concessionaires have not performed thus far and what you see is government’s intervention which has enable us to prove even to those who committed to lend and reneged that the project is real, it does happen and we can do it. So what we are doing now is to ensure that these pockets of increasing turnout can be quickly addressed.
Who are the concessionaires?
We have Charms Consultant Limited, One Secure Cards Limited.
How much would have been invested in that project?
Is a concession, and you know in a concession there is usually a period of time revenue projection, cost projection and typically you expect that oat will be taken along. What has happened is that the economic recession affected the initial projections and it hasn’t really been possible to reorganise and rejig the figures and in the main time government then intervened to help answer some of the questions that lenders began to ask in the face of the impact of the economic recession and this was some years ago. I hope that our expectation is that now that the card has been launched, and they are seeing the turn out because the turnout is now beginning to seem as if we did not plan and we planned, in fact we brought forward the card issuance as a way of jump starting turnout, so we expected this turnout and it appears as if the way we plan to deal with it is now not as fast as the response by people.
When will the distribution start?
The card distribution has started in Abuja and we will take it to the various states because we have activation centre in each enrolment centre. The card is being treated the way ATM cards are treated. In fact more than that, because the requirement is that transportation is under very secure environment. When it is coming into the country there is a transportation pin, so if you steal the card you can not use it without the transportation pin.
When we finish the personalization, it is securely kept within our facility which is certified for that. When we then want to move it to various locations, a company that is registered and known for doing that kind of business which is equated to cash evacuation is engaged to help us move the cards because the security is of utmost important to us. When it then gets to our card collection centre, there is an activation officer, when you come with your transaction slip and show your name, (the slip contains your name and other information) they will look for your own envelop, sealed and give it to you and require you to open it, take it out, turn the back and sign and then you will be required to activate the card there and then. That activation has three reasons: to ensure that it is properly personalised; make it usable within the verification infrastructure and third which is optional, is for you to activate the EMV, the payment outlet and then you go with the card.
The CBN regulated bank verification is on, can you expanciate on it because is in conflict with what you are doing, is like you and the CBN are competing, what have you agreed with CBN?
CBN is the financial authority in Nigeria, NIMC is the national identity authority in Nigeria, two clear mandates, what is being worked out now is with the CBN project, is how the data that they are collecting will be submitted to the National Identity Management Commission in the contest of harmonization. How their data collection will ensure that the biometrics is submitted to the only institution that has that responsibility and how we will then give them the unique identification number with which they can then organize their data base of bank account holders. There is no mistake about that, the CBN or banks have no authority whatsoever to keep biometric data and so what they are doing, Mr. President has been very unequivocal about it, discontinue what you are doing, find a way of modifying it and keying into the NIMC infrastructure because it has been clearly stated the primary data base responsibility statutory and constitutional is the NIMC, there are no two ways about it.
Charms is actually the one driving the biometric project for the banks and I think it is based on the premise of that investment they were suppose to make, am wondering is it an after thought or?
Charms Consultant Limited was appointed a partner for three reasons in the National Identity Management System; collect data, issue cards and conduct identity verification services. This has not progressed as expected, I have explained that, the bank verification number project is a baby of the CBN under the auspices of Bankers committee and I know it was a contract awarded to Demalog of Germany. I understand that they have Charms Plc not Charms Consortium as their partner and that they are involved in the process. They are two different things, Charms Consortium Limited is known to NIMC as a partner of NIMC and Charms Plc is known to CBN as a partner of Demalog, I do not know the relationship. In view of Mr. President’s directive, BVN as it is stated will adjust their biometric data when it comes to NIMC, but we keep demographic data as we give them the means they will use it to do what they want to do, they have no responsibility for verification using biometric, they have no responsibility for keeping biometrics and that is very clear.
How are you addressing the issue of apathy to the project?
There are three things to it, the gentle man who says he does not know anything about the card, I know he has some reservations, secondly, we knew about this apathy and we have addressed it to the point where when people enrolled they said I have enrolled but am looking for my card. So we have sufficiently driven home the fact that the number is your identity, and we know also that people want the card. We saw that the turnout was not encouraging, we did a small survey and we came to the conclusion that if we fast track, if we bring forward card issuance, that it will help to address the apathy and now you personally said to me that there is always a large turnout, when that place was opened, the turn out was a sorry tale.
The turnout am talking about are those at home, who feel free
Excuse me sir, those at home are the majority of Nigeria and they are the residue because they hold the remnant of any apathy or enthusiasm, they are the ones whose actions help define every other thing. When you get home as a working parent and your wife is a housewife doing nothing, and you say how you are and she says fine, the tendency is to recount any experience that she had whilst you were not around. If it were to be an experience at our enrolment centre that was good, it will help you in shaping opinion when you go out because is an important home truth that was recounted for you. For us, if we are able to take care of the rural dwellers, the urban dwellers that are at home, we will take the rest, the rest are the people whom we have already addressed within the first enrolment centres in capitals and so every effort should be made to take it down.