NIMC stands for the National Identity Management Commission, an agency of government mandated to create an identity data bank for all Nigerians by issuing them a set of National Identity Numbers (NIN), assigned to an individual upon successful registration through which they can be easily identified. The number, if the law setting up the agency is to be applied strictly, is statutorily required when opening bank accounts, getting driver’s licence, obtaining permanent voters card, participating in National Health Insurance Scheme, paying of taxes, needed in contributory pension scheme, land transactions and has social security implications. The list is endless. What this means is that the number is an omnibus, multi-functional identity kit that is, by itself, as essential as life.
Considering its relevance in the day to day existence of the average Nigerian, the agency in charge would have seen the urgency in accomplishing its task. Yet, that is not the case as after several years of flip-flop activity, getting Nigerians registered and assigned a number is becoming more complicated than rocket science. The project has become a yawning hole that has consumed monumental resources and valuable time and it is not about to be accomplished. At some point, the commission was engulfed in allegations of corruption and mismanagement of fund and the project was cancelled and started all over from scratch. That explains why most Nigerians have registered for the number more than once and still without having a number they can use. What most were given was a tentative card which is not legally admissible for the above listed functions.
Because of the perceptible tardiness on the part of the agency to perform its task with despatch, every sector of the economy has devised a means of identifying its publics when a number from NIMC would have served the purpose. The banking sector, for instance, was compelled to introduce the Bank Verification Number (BVN) with the enormous resources that entails as well as the inconvenience to Nigerians who have to repeat the same process to obtain a driver’s licence or an international passport.
National Identity Management Commission, it needs to be pointed out, is a statutory Nigerian organization that operates the country’s national identity management systems. It was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 to create, operate and manage Nigeria’s national identity card database, integrate the existing identity database in government institutions, register individuals and legal residents, assign a unique national identification number and introduce general multi-purpose cards
Now, until the NIMC boss himself pointed out recently that the number is so crucial should one need to access business loans from banks, we are certain that most Nigerians did not see it from that perspective. That observation by the NIMC boss exposed the implication of the agency not attaching commensurate urgency in getting the job done with. So far, the commission claims it has captured in the National Identity Database about 18.5 million records out of approximately 180 million Nigerians, established up to 809 NIN enrolment centres nationwide, launched the new electronic National ID Card with multiple functions, achieved GVCP Certification and recertification of the NIMC Card Personalisation Bureau in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, as well as deploying backend Infrastructures like the ABIS, NIDB Storage, security network and data centres.
Despite the deliberate slow pace in the execution of its assignment, NIMC recently got the nod of federal government to make the National Identity Number a major pre- condition to becoming a citizen of Nigeria. What this means is that those who have not taken part in the NIMC registration exercise, are running the risk of not being recognised as Nigerian citizens.
It is our conjecture that the government, in giving its approval for this condition, may have taken into cognisance it strategic importance in checking insurgency especially in a situation that it is alleged that most of those fighting for Boko Haram and even the ‘herdsmen’ killing and maiming with impunity are not all Nigerians. With the identity number, it will be easy to fish out criminals among the populace. Elsewhere in Europe and America, perpetrators of crimes, no matter the complexity, are identified within hours. And that is because of the availability of a database that can be accessed at the push of a button.
We are convinced beyond doubt that a credible NIMC database will go a long way in establishing an accurate population figure for the country. This conviction stems from the inclusion of Nigerians from age 0-16 which when added to the ongoing adult registration will give policy makers and development planners figures they need in their computations. This singular economic reason when added to the others ought to push that agency to add life and verve to its pace.