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Nigeria tackles extortion of digital ID enrolees, revalidates partners

Nigeria tackles extortion of digital ID enrolees, revalidates partners
 

Nigeria is racing to meet a World Bank target of issuing digital ID to at least 148 million citizens in the course of this year, but efforts to attain this goal are bedevilled by a myriad of challenges. With over 104 million digital IDs already issued notwithstanding, authorities regret that the issuance process has been facing problems such as lack of adequate infrastructure, insufficient funding, piling debts, as well as corruption and other malpractices perpetrated by some stakeholders like third-party agents involved in the digital ID enrollment process.

NIMC DG says reliable ID system is fundamental right

Speaking through a representative at a workshop organized by the Nigeria Digital Identification for Development (ID4D) program, the director general of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Abisoye Coker-Odusote, reiterated the willingness of the federal government to provide all Nigerians and legal residents in the country with a reliable form of identification.

She assured that despite what she called a “fragmented identity system” in Nigeria, the NIMC is working with its partners to carry out important reforms aimed at facilitating access to legal identity in Africa’s most populous nation, Vanguard reports.

As one of the ways of achieving this target, the boss of the ID-issuing authority says the President has given instructions to “ensure we integrate and unify our identity system,” an idea also re-echoed in October by the Interior Minister.

Commenting on the aspect of corruption which is one of the problems plaguing ID issuance in the country, the NIMC DG said, as quoted: “We frown at all forms of extortion and will ensure anyone found culpable of extorting any potential enrolee is made to bear the full weight of the law.”

“Since my assumption of office as the DG of the NIMC, I have led several sting operations to enrolment and regional coordination centers across the country where some of our staff found extorting enrolees were handed over to law enforcement agents for prosecution,” she adds.

While noting that some partners such as the Nigeria ID4D have been supporting the NIMC in the implementation of the digital ID program, the authority says it is banking on such support to expand ID coverage to all sociological groups in the country, including persons with disabilities and forcibly displaced individuals.

On the issue of debts, Coker-Odusote said they have been working on a plan to clear the backlog of payment to enrollment partners, some of who wrote a letter to President Bola Tinubu on the matter last year. She noted that as part of their sustainability plan, the NIMC is mulling “a robust business model” on which to function.

She also mentioned that work is in progress to put in place the enabling legislative framework for the NIMC to integrate with government agencies involved in foundational identity issues.

Digital ID enrollment partners suspended as cases of extortion soar

NIMC is putting a halt to the activities of some front-end partners assisting with enrollment for the National Identification Number (NIN), as suggested by Coker-Odusote.

The NIMC DG justified the suspension during a training workshop for some newly admitted front-end partners, per News Nigeria.

She said NIMC is carrying out a revalidation process of these partners, and this comes as several cases of malpractice have been reported involving some of the partners.

According to her, the suspension is “a step towards sanitizing the system and processes while ensuring the integrity of data in the country’s identity database,” and that it is also “one of the steps towards proper auditing of the claims made by some of our Front-End Partners.”

“NIN enrolment is free of charge in Nigeria. My administration has zero tolerance for corruption. We shall therefore not spare anyone found perpetrating corrupt practices or any other form of infractions,” the NIMC boss said.

The revalidation process, the official insists, is not aimed at any punishing any partner but is meant to clean the NIN enrollment partner ecosystem.

Meanwhile, in the wake of extortion claims, the NIMC has encouraged users to report all cases of corruption they are faced with, in order for appropriate action to be taken, notes Leadership.

In the meantime, a report suggests that Nigeria’s digital ID card does not offer the full spectrum of functions it was designed to provide.

Launched in 2014 by then President Goodluck Jonathan, the biometric-based e-ID is a multipurpose card with components including a digital payments service for the purpose of driving financial inclusion. This was to be among 13 functions, according to the report by Tribune Online.

Just five of the 13 services built in the card are active so far, according to the publication. While one of those is the payments applet, the Tribune recounts stories from multiple Nigerians who have been unable to access financial services with the card. One of them claims to have access only to one particular financial institution, where he does not have an account, while another claims his bank declined to use his e-ID card to provide service, and instead asked for his NIN slip.

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