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Confusion as Nigeria national ID cards multiply

Confusion as Nigeria national ID cards multiply

There’ve been mixed reactions in Nigeria after the federal government unveiled plans to introduce a new multi-purpose national digital ID card, with some describing it as a duplicative effort and a waste of resources.

In a statement issued Friday April 5, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), said the new ID card, whose launch is supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System, will have payments and social service delivery functions, and will facilitate access to other services including travel, health insurance information, microloans, agriculture, food stamps, transport, and energy subsidies, just to mention a few.

The agency added that among other features, the credential, to be powered by a national ID card scheme dubbed AfriGo, will have a machine-readable zone (MRZ) in line with ICAO’s standards for biometric passports, a QR code that will contain the holder’s national identification number (NIN), and the possibility for face and fingerprints biometric authentication as the primary medium for identity verification through the data on the card chip.

One card or three different cards?

After the NIMC announcement, the institution’s Technical Adviser for Media and Communications, Ayodele Babalola, later made a declaration which appeared to be different from the substance of the ID authority’s April 5 statement.

In an interview with Punch, the official said three new cards will be introduced (apparently including the announced multi-function card), and they’ll comprise a bank-enabled ID, a social protection card and another – the (ENBIC) which will be used within the West African community.

He did not provide a date for when these cards will be launched, saying the decision would be sequel to a clearance by the presidency.

The number of new cards to be introduced notwithstanding, the announcements come as Nigeria is pursing efforts to expand coverage of the NIN – another digital ID – which has so far been issued to nearly 105 million people. The World Bank recently lauded Nigeria’s NIN issuance progress in a report. Different states in the country, including Edo and Lagos also have biometric resident ID cards for different purposes.

Nigerians criticize multiplicity of cards

Across the country’s social media space, there have been strong criticism of the NIMC’s announcement of yet other cards.

“We have NIN and voter’s card. What stops the federal government from integrating whatever technology they have from those? Putting Nigerians through another round of stress is unnecessary. This smells like a well packaged fraud as usual. We are not kids anymore,” Rita Sunshine, an X user commented under the NIMC’s announcement.

Another X user identified as AI Ken asked rhetorical questions: “APC season of national card Vs new card. Are all these for our benefits or for the benefit of contractors? What is the different between NIN, PVC, BVN and this upcoming card?”

In what looks like an anticipated response to these criticisms, the NIMC wrote in its announcement. “The national ID card, layered with verifiable national identity features, is backed by the NIMC Act No 23 of 2007 which mandates NIMC to enroll and issue a General-Purpose card (GMPC) to Nigerians and legal residents.”

“This card will address the demand for physical identification enabling cardholders prove their identity, access government and private sector services, facilitate financial inclusion for disenfranchised Nigerians, empower citizens, as well as encourage increased participation in nation-building.”

According to the NIMC, the card can be requested for online access by commercial banks, some dedicated agencies involved in social programmes, or any NIMC office across the country.

“Only registered citizens and legal residents with the National Identification Number will be eligible to request the card. Cardholders will also be able to use the cards as debit or prepaid cards by linking same to bank accounts of their choice. The cards shall enable eligible persons especially those financially excluded from social and financial services have access to multiple government intervention programmes.”

Following the criticisms online, the NIMC has also clarified that the issuance of the new card will not require the collection of additional biographic or biometric information.

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