By EKELE PETER AGBO
The world has moved in terms of technology and innovation. The Nigerian government at the moment does not have the resources to throw at any national identity card project; neither does the economy have appetite for any white elephant project.
It is, therefore, best for the government to apply the same public private partnership (PPP) model that was used in taming the e-passport monster in building up the national identity infrastructure. Before now, we had seen a few hiccups here and there with the Nigerian International Passport. For the first time, Nigeria has been able to put together a partnership with private sector to come up with the e-passport which has so far stabilised.
Hitherto, government used to appropriate money for passports, now passports generate revenue for government. Importantly, there was a resolution of ECOWAS heads of government on giving all ECOWAS citizens an ECOWAS travel card to complement their travel passports. That being the case, the synergy can be harnessed to use ECOWAS travel card platform to develop a national identity infrastructure via a public private partnership model as was done in the e-passport.
That way, Nigeria will have a quick win resolution, achieve a national identity infrastructure with all the attendant benefits of national planning, and creating a consumer credit economy which the country badly needs to fast-track economic revival and get out of the current recession. European countries and most of the world have been able to double their GDP by creating a consumer credit economy. And you cannot create a consumer credit economy until you have a definitive identity of the citizens. There in Europe and developed countries of the world, when you see a person driving a car, the car doesn’t belong to him. He’s likely to have borrowed money to buy the car. You see somebody living in a house, there is a mortgage.
If you see somebody acquiring an asset, he borrowed the money from the bank. That is consumer credit. You borrow money to buy refrigerator, buy motorcycle, and buy a car.
That money that you borrowed will expand the private borrowing of the banks. If today, the number of cars that are in the economy are a thousand cars, because people have to pay cash to acquire those cars, if you have the opportunity to borrow for ten years and buy a car, easily, the number of cars will be two thousand because everybody will go to the bank against his future earnings. That way, you are doubling the capacity of the GDP, and the only way to do that is via consumer credit.
Consumer credit can only be established when identities are determined. And government can easily do that by harnessing the PPP model of developing that infrastructure, just like it was done in the e-Passport project. Sri Lanka just adopted the PPP model in launching their e-Passport portal because of the enormous capital that they have. Nigeria does not need to take scarce resources from the treasury to be able to build national identity infrastructure.
People should stop thinking of government granting money for national identity project. It is out of that now! Now, private sector can come in, invest money in it, and be able to earn some money. For example, if today, the private sector comes in, every SIM card that you buy will have to do SIM card registration. What that means is that the telecom operators will have to establish separate infrastructure for that registration. Automatically, you’ll be addressing a major critical infrastructure by a smart way of taking an initiative.
So, why won’t government have a different look to these issues now than those former approaches have failed and consumed a lot of money and encourage cost?And it is a cesspool for corruption. People will take money from government, yet it won’t work. But we have seen a private sector involvement in the e-Passport project which has worked. The government should look at that model, or that template as a quick way of developing the needed critical infrastructure, because the country needs it, especially at this time of recession, to build that consumer credit to enhance the GDP?
Before now, you would need to put up a massive infrastructure to be able to register somebody. But now, with the evolution of science and technology, you can register using smart phone, your own personal smart phone that provides all the data that is required to some computer that is in a remote location. So, you don’t need to have a physical location where everybody must spend time. So, to that extent, there might be some modification of the existing infrastructure. However, in terms of cost, it is going to be a lot cheaper and it’s going to give government a lot of insight; that is the economic side.
Then on the side of security, with the major security challenge we have in the country, there has never been a period where identity of citizens is required to be verified than now. So, this thing definitely is going to be a win-win for any government both from the security and the economic sides. And for the citizens, for developing consumer credits and enabling the citizens have access to daily life.
Even the social intervention programme like N-power, you cannot do it well without corruption until you are able to identify those boys and girls that have finished school, that are qualified to access that. And the only way to deliver all those social empowerment programmes is by definitive identification of the individuals. So, the government can easily harness that model and use the existing passport infrastructure.
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