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Address and ID verification proposed for World Bank social welfare program in Nigeria

 

The World Bank has been urged to make the use of a digital addressing and ID verification system a pre-condition for the disbursement of a mega-money social support program for vulnerable Nigerians.

In a recent letter addressed to the Nigeria country director of the World Bank, Shubham Chaudhuri, GAIN Chairman and Founder Bisi Adegbuyi asked the World Bank to have transparency guarantees before the funds are released to the Nigerian government.

The Bank is giving out an $800 million palliative loan to enable poor Nigerians cope with the effects of the government’s move to remove fuel subsidies in the country from June, one month after President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu takes office.

Already, stakeholders are concerned about how the social intervention project should be carried out to guarantee transparency as well as its effectiveness.

The Grassroot Addressing Identity Network Limited (GAIN) provides a standard digital address and a verifiable digital identity system for Nigerians by accompanying grassroots-based sustainable development initiatives, the company says on its website. Similar services are also available from other African digital ID providers, prominently including VerifyMe Nigeria.

According to the letter quoted by Punch, Adegbuyi says that such a system in which earmarked beneficiaries are “assigned duly validated digital addresses and means of identification” will go a long way in enhancing transparency in the distribution and management of the funds, by enabling real-time feedback from beneficiaries.

In the letter, Adegbuyi said the mistake must not be repeated of a previous $500 million World Bank social intervention program in 2016 which reportedly suffered transparency issues because beneficiaries could not be properly identified.

He cited Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari as saying three years later (in 2019) that the program had failed because the funds did not reach all intended beneficiaries.

“Our Digital Addressing and Identity Verification systems software, which won the recognition of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), an affiliate of International Telecommunications Union, a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) in 2018, can help to provide an end-to-end monitoring tool for the scheme, thereby enhancing its transparency and accountability,” writes Adegbuyi in his letter.

Program to run on database of vulnerable Nigerians

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) says the money from the World Bank is expected to be distributed to around 10 million poor households to help them reduce the effects of certain economic shocks facing the country.

The assistance will be in the form of cash transfers.

The program will be based on the national social register (NSR) which keeps a record of 61 million poor Nigerians from approximately15 million households, says NASSCO head of communications Joe Abuku, according to The Cable.

As of 30 March, Abuku said they were 61,593,733 persons registered in the database in 755 local government areas of the country’s 36 states and the NSR is “one of the most reliable pathways through which government could directly target sections of the population most likely to feel the immediate impact of subsidy removal.”

Abuku said people registered on the database have benefitted from different social services in the past, supported by national and international organizations.

Earlier in the month, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed also said the World Bank support would reach up to 50 million poor Nigerians.

No reply had yet been received to Biometric Update’s email request to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for clarification on whether the NSR database is linked to the NIN database at the time of this report.

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