Nigeria plans to replace bank IDs with digital ID numbers

Biometrics and digital ID

Federal government authorities in Nigeria say talks are ongoing with various stakeholders to see how biometrics-backed Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) can be integrated with and replaced by National Identification Numbers (NINs). The BVN is a scheme introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria with the goal of protecting bank account holders.

Nigeria’s The Guardian reports that Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Dr. Isa Pantami, made the disclosure recently as he visited some NIN enrolment centers in the capital Abuja to take the pulse of how the enrollment process is unfolding so far.

Pantami noted that biometric data is not consistently captured during registration processes, with the number of fingerprints collected sometimes varying, which makes it difficult to integrate the various systems.

The issuance of the NIN is currently ongoing in the country, with mobile telephone users expected to integrate them into their SIM cards before an April 6 federal government deadline.

Pantami was quoted as saying that talks to this effect are already ongoing between officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (which issues BVNs) and those of the National Identity Management Commission, (which is overseeing the NIN registration process).

The federal government’s move to see BVNs replaced by NINs is being made because the BVN is just a bank policy, unlike the NIN which is mandatory and provided for by law.

“We discussed with the CBN governor today on how to ensure that all our citizens with BVN will immediately be provided with the NIN. We are working on that, but facilitating the process lies on CBN to make it much easier for our people,” the Economy Minister was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

The report adds that the idea of replacing the BVN with the NIN was re-echoed by the Minister during a recent presentation he made to the National Economic Sustainability Committee.

More than 40 million BVNs were reported to have been issued as of late last year.

Digital ID project advancing

Meanwhile, the Director General of NIMC, Aliyu Abubakar Aziz, has assured Nigerians that the ongoing biometric digital identity project in the country is making progress.

Aziz said although some challenges stand in the way, the project is advancing as they hope they can meet a projected 2022 deadline of providing a digital identity to at least 100 million Nigerians.

In an interview published by The Guardian, the NIMC boss spoke about a wide range of issues including the ongoing NIN registration process. On this, he hailed the progress made, saying up to three million people were already issued the NIN between December 2020 and January 2021.

“The target of the year 2022 was on the premise of partnership with public and private sector agencies to support the Commission in data capturing services and making NIN enrolment centers easily accessible to the people. The Commission is on course to meet the target of enrolling all Nigerians and legal residents within a time frame subject to availability of funds and the ongoing pandemic easing out. So far, we are making progress in this respect,” the NIMC Director General assured.

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