Nigeria sets up committee to drive digital identity initiative

Biometrics and digital ID

Nigeria‘s President Muhammadu Buhari has established a committee led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who will focus on introducing digital identification for all Nigerians, writes Nairametrics.

The goal of the committee is to integrate government information such as BVN, driver’s licenses, passports and the National Identity Management Number.

According to Mustapha, the initiative was approved in 2018, but it has been a collective effort of multiple organizations and government institutions since 2015. The government has a “three tier institutional arrangement” that will lead the digital identification and identity management strategy.

He further states the approved strategic roadmap “is a culmination of the enormous collective efforts and contributions of so many institutions and stakeholders, which began in the year 2015, when this Government took a decision to forge a credible and cost-effective pathway for identification management.”

Nigerian publication Guardian says the digital identity project has been in the making for nearly a decade, and despite significant funding, there is still a small success rate, while other countries such as Rwanda, South Africa, and Botswana are ahead of the game.

Local expert, Kehinde Aluko, urges the country to seriously pick up the identity management project, as it may also reduce the corruption level. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has only issued 41 million National Identification Numbers (NIN), while the country’s total population exceeds 200 million.

Members in the Steering Committee include the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Alternate Chairman/Member; Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF), Abubakar Malami; Education, Adamu Adamu; Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; and Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.

Some of the Steering Committee’s tasks include analyzing the regulatory framework, implementing the roadmap, establishing the location of the Ecosystem Strategic Unit and providing guidelines and approval.

More than 100 million Nigerians aged 16 and over have no official identity and come from poor, marginalized communities. NIMC reports that only 38 percent of Nigerians have some form of ID, while 61 percent are below the poverty line. Inclusive and trusted ID systems can improve transparency, grow the economy and help people access services.

Aliyu Aziz from NIMC, who is also Secretary, announced at a forum in Abuja that some of the goals are to provide all with seamless digital identity nationwide, scale up the ID infrastructure, improve the legal and regulatory framework and reduce biometric and biographic data collection cost.

On July 23, ID4Africa is organizing a LiveCast with biometrics and digital ID industry experts to discuss unique digital identity numbers in the context of rushing digital identity solutions to market to respond to COVID-19.

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