It appears that not too many Nigerians are aware that the mandatory use of the National Identity Number will come into full force by the first of January 2019. This is based on a statement released by the National Identity Management Commission a few months ago. According to the Director General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, “FEC’s approval of the Identity Ecosystem will bring into full force the implementation of the provisions of the NIMC Act 23, 2007, which include the enforcement of the mandatory use of the National Identification Number by January 1, 2019, and the application of appropriate sanctions and penalties on defaulters as provided under Section 28 of the NIMC Act and Regulations.”
Now, I do not know if there has been any ‘updated’ directive and a new date announced but I am dismayed at the way and manner NIMC has carried on with the supposed directive. How in the world would such an important policy come into effect and there is no ongoing sensitisation to educate and get citizens ready or is this another ploy to set Nigerians up, so that those who are caught would have to ‘settle’ to get off the hook? A question that only time would answer.
There are, however, lots of fears being expressed in the light of the present dimension of a single identity card that is intended to also integrate other functions and conveniences, such as debit card on the National eID card. The fear ranges from the simple logistic detail of ease of replacement in the eventuality of loss, considering the usual cumbersome nature of the bureaucracies surrounding such government services and programmes. Now, imagine a situation where all the essential bio-data of an individual as contained in a national identity database is available to your bank by virtue of its link to your ATM card and by extension, all Point of Sales terminals, where you use that card for transactions! It means that if your card falls into the wrong hands, they will have access to all the essential details about you – including your bank account, home address, blood group and other sensitive personal details including, of course, your phone number.
A few questions begging for answers include, what are the security implications to people? What implications does this have for national security and sovereignty in an era of globalisation and data mining? Where are the lines drawn? What are the guiding rules? Who blows the whistle? What powers does the umpire have and what are the punishments for infringements and compensations for the injured?
These are basic questions to which we must provide answers and ensure that the average citizen is made aware of their rights and responsibilities and also provide an appropriate legislative and regulatory framework to set operational and ethical standards, with effective monitoring and enforcing structure before we roll out these National eID cards.
I visited the NIMC website while writing this piece and I noticed that it is big on open source. Well, nothing wrong with open source perse but I have my doubt if using open source for a National and super sensitive project is the best. So, I noticed the — Finish Reading on the Punch