February 3, 2015 -
A Nigerian government minister is seeking to enroll the entire country in a biometric database to curb the ongoing criminal activities of Islamist militants, according to a report by The Telegraph.
Nigerian aviation minister Osita Chidoka said that establishing “a national data infrastructure” was the only way to protect the country from the Boko Haram terrorists which are located in northeast Nigeria.
Chidoka said the country’s police and security forces have found it extremely difficult to monitor the group’s networks of insurgents and criminal gangs, or to investigate whether foreign jihadists have a role in their activities.
“One of the key objectives of the government is to bring about a data infrastructure that will capture every Nigerian across their life cycles, from the time they go to primary school onwards, to make it possible to track people and behaviour,” Osita Chidoka told The Telegraph. “It will include prison databases, criminal databases, and so on.
“The president has realised that as much as we are going to fight militarily, we need to introduce the systems of modernity that will fight global networks of terror. Then we will also know if these people fighting in our country are really Nigerians. Right now we don’t.”
Considering Nigeria has a population of approximately 173 million citizens, many of whom are not taken into account in census records, establishing such a database would be a logistical nightmare.
However, Chidoka seems to be confident that he and his team can pull it off. As the previous CEO of Nigeria’s Federal Road Safety Corps, Chidoka oversaw the development of a new biometric database of drivers’ licences, which currently has three million people enrolled.
“Prior to that system, if a Nigerian policeman arrested someone for a traffic offence, he’d have to physically take the person to the station to check who he was, rather than just issuing a ticket and walking away,” said Chidoka. “With the new system that doesn’t have to happen, as people have their facial data and thumb prints on their licences, as well as their addresses.”