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Nigerian government recommends unified biometric data collection and usage


Upon reading a briefing on the activities of the National Population Commission (NPC), Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recommended that government agencies share the biometric data of citizens through a unified collection and usage procedure, according to a report by All Africa.

“It will be more cost effective if you work together,” said President Muhammadu Buhari. “It helps even the credibility of the election process, as Nigerians of voting age can be identified easily.”

President Buhari questioned the government agencies for their decision to individually collect the biometric data of citizens rather than working together to collect and share the data.

This is not the first time the issue has been brought to the attention of the Nigerian government.

Last year, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called for a similar action when he said that ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) should collaborate with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the agency tasked with providing a biometric database for Nigeria.

Agencies did little to follow through on this recommendation as they continued to order Nigerians to submit their biometric data.

The past few years has seen the country introduce and enforce several mandatory biometric submission practices for civilians.

Several government agencies including the National Population Commission (NPC), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and indeed the Nigeria Police had at different times asked Nigerians for their biometric data, and sometimes generating concerns among members of the public about the time, money and energy wasted.

For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) implemented the Bank Verification Number (BVN) registration exercise earlier this year, only to extend the deadline until October 31st after not enough Nigerians had registered.

The considerably low response to the exercise can likely be attributed to Nigerians becoming weary of repeating the same biometric registration, over and over again, as the process can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming, with little tangible benefits to be gained.

Additionally, the country launched a costly eID pilot program last year, which set to issue MasterCard-branded biometric identity cards with electronic payments functionality to 13 million civilians.

At the time, former President Jonathan criticized the multiple identity capturing exercises at the time.

“Aside from being unwieldy,” said Jonathan, “the cost of operating multiple discordant databases and infrastructure is unsustainable. Government cannot afford the continued proliferation of data capture activities.”

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