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Nigerian govt Minister stresses need for data harmonization, single biometric database

Nigerian govt Minister stresses need for data harmonization, single biometric database

The Minister of Interior of Nigeria, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has pledged that his ministry will dismantle all challenges that continue to stand in the way of efforts to set up a single biometric database and harmonized data that will link all government ministries, departments and agencies in the country.

Speaking early this week at the start of an international event organized by the University of Lagos, Tunji-Ojo said a harmonized data management system for the country will not only reduce cost and time, it will equally enhance integrity and trust especially in the issuance of identity credentials like passports, Vanguard reports.

The idea of harmonizing all data held by different government institutions in Nigeria into a central repository is not new. The importance of such a move has been sufficiently emphasized over the years including by former President Muhammadu Buhari who made the call in 2021.

With 2023 ebbing out and the plan yet to materialize, the Interior Minister says it is time to break the jinx.

Explaining the duplication of data collection and management in the country, Tunji Ojo said, as quoted: “We have the BVN [Bank Verification Number] in the bank, the international passport, the NIN [National Identification Number], SIM card registration by telecos, and so on, all of which, request your data. The integrity of our travel documents must be restored through the harmonization of our data.”

He said with the problems and inconveniences that come with storing the same data in different formats, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has directed that the plan for a centralized database be quickly materialized in a move that he says “will not only save us stress, cost, and energy but also help us optimize our processes and the country’s security architecture.”

Tunji-Ojo explained that the data harmonization process is a key step in the country’s digital transformation journey. He used the opportunity to also mention some of the recent developments in the biometric passport issuance system which saw a backlog of over 200,000 pending documents cleared in three weeks.

In a related identity topic from Nigeria, concerns have been raised in some quarters regarding the announced plan by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to introduce a self-service mobile application for digital ID enrollment.

As part of activities to mark the 2023 Identity Day on September 16, Nigeria launched the “NIMC Self-service NIN Enrollment and Digital ID” app on a pilot. It will be rolled out fully if the beta test proves successful.

However, Techeconomy, in an editorial, calls the move a dangerous step that may compromise the integrity of the country’s national identity database.

The outlet fears that the app, which the NIMC says will be used to enrol, modify, validate and a generate a digital identity from the comfort of one’s room, could be a recipe for identity fraud and terrorist activities.

The editorial demands that the NIMC, and its party on the project Banksforte Technologies Limited, provide clarity on how exactly the app will work without affecting the integrity of the ID database. It also calls for the beta tests results to be made public.

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