Nigerian President wants centralized biometric database before 2023 Polls
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has instructed all federal agencies collecting personal and biometric data for different purposes to harmonize their action and put in place a unified database before general elections in 2023.
This Day newspaper reports that the Nigerian leader gave the directive through his Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Dr. Isa Pantami, during a recent ceremony in Abuja to mark this year’s International Identity Day.
Pantami said the President wanted this done before the end of his mandate, while also reiterating the importance of having a comprehensive biometric database in place. In this light, he called on all agencies and institutions collecting personal data to henceforth work in harmony with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
“With the right database in place, it will guide government to plan and take critical decisions on education, health agriculture and data also will guide government to come up with effective national policies with the issue women, children and unemployment,” said Pantami, before adding that “as a country, we seek to use efficient ways to deploy national identity trust systems not only to deliver government services in areas such as social welfare, taxes, voting, health administration, security, and education but also to build an indigenous digital economy that will stimulate the private sector and make it thrive.”
This Day also cited the Digital Economy Minister as explaining that a recent financial approval by the federal government for the replacement of infrastructure of the NIMC is part of the vision of the President to drive digital inclusion and expand access to various digital services by citizens.
During the Abuja event, Pantami also spoke about the role of digital identity and the importance of each Nigerian having their national identification number (NIN) linked to their SIM cards. He said in a bid to facilitate this process, the federal government has developed a mobile App which people can use without going physically to enrollment centers.
The Acting Chairman of the NIMC Governing Board, Bello Ibrahim, and the NIMC Director General, Aziz Aliyu, who also spoke during the Abuja event, underlined the importance of digital identity and its role in the socio-economic development of every nation.
As part of Nigeria’s efforts to push ahead its digital identity agenda, the federal government is expecting some more funding from the French Development Agency to be used alongside funds from the World Bank, according to a recent by TBI Africa.
Buhari has asked Nigeria’s Senate to approve close to $5 billion in loans to be disbursed to NIMC and other agencies.
The notion of a comprehensive, centralized biometric database may cause concern as a potential target for hackers. There is no legal requirement for data minimization in Nigeria, however, and the country’s Data Protection Bill is still a work in progress.