Non-availability of basic verifiable biometric and demographic data of a vast majority of the populace has been a major impediment to national planning, hence the stunted pace of national growth and development in the public and private sectors of the economy, respectively. To stem this unsavoury tide the Federal Government charged the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), to develop and implement an effective National Identity Management System (NIMS), for Nigeria within three years. Upon completion, NIMS will aid national planning, enhance national security; facilitate financial inclusion, foster development of e-commerce and a national payment system, and also synchronize and integrate pre-existing identity databases into the national identity database.
Due to the importance attached to the development of the NIMS infrastructure by government, it enacted the NIMC Act in 2007 to empower NIMC to create, manage, maintain and operate the national identity database. The Act saddled the commission with the task of setting standards and procedures for the capture, processing, storage and use of demographic and biometric data in the country in furtherance of its mandate. A key requirement of the National Identity Management System is the capture of biometrics and necessary demographic data of all Nigerians who are 16 years old and above, in a manner that would facilitate enrolment, data de-duplication and reliable identity authentication and verification (on-line real time and off-line), across digital platforms using the unique National Identification Number (NIN) System.
The enrolment exercise will precede the issuance of the unique National Identity Numbers and chip- based identity cards, which will in turn drive the adoption of standardized biometric, demographic and verification procedures across public and private institutions in key sectors of the economy, leading to harmonization, integration and interoperability across many systems. Usually, the NIN is used by governments, worldover, for national planning in the areas of job creation, taxation, healthcare and the delivery of essential public sector services. The private sector, especially, the financial sub-sector will also benefit tremendously from this initiative which will validate Know-Your-Customer (KYC) processes, thereby reducing financial crimes. Ultimately, this project will help minimize the incidence of identity theft in Nigeria, since the biometrics of the 10 fingers of each enroller will be captured in the NIMS database.
To deliver on its mandate, the National Identity Management Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chams Consortium in 2010. The MoU gives the Chams Consortium the legal backing to drive the process of collection of basic demographic and biometric data across 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, through a Public Private Partnership model, which will foster the orderly development of an identity sector in Nigeria.
It would be recalled that NIMC invited local and international companies to bid in a transparent and competitive manner for the NIMS project. The competitive bidding produced the Chams Consortium comprising Chams Plc, Nextzon Communications and SuperCard Limited, as one of the institutions that will implement the project through the Public Private Partnership model. Chams Plc, the consortium lead is a homegrown and leading Information and Communication Technology services provider to public and private sector players in Nigeria. Its business concern spans the provision of infrastructure to drive e-payment, transactions and identity management to public and private sector institutions.
Already, the Chams Consortium has a biometric database of over 2million Nigeria from other identity projects it has carried out, prior to its contract with the NIMC. The company is also working with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), as independent solutions provider for the registration of Subscribers Identity Module (SIM) Cards across all GSM, CDMA and fixed line networks in Lagos State. Chams Plc has the mandate to capture detailed subscriber profiles and data in a manner that facilitates its seamless integration into the existing National Identity Database.
This is in tandem with its mandate to implement the NIMS project on a Build, Transfer and Operate basis, which spans conceptualization, design, development, execution and management of the front-end operations of the proposed systems. The Consortium will deploy biometric data capturing machines to enroll Nigerians, issue multi-purpose smart cards thereafter, which will serve a range of purposes, especially as data to be stored on the chip includes personal information, biometrics, residency reference numbers for immigration e-passports, and driver’s license. The consortium will also provide card acceptance devices, among others services, with the aim of recouping its investment in 12 years.
Demola Aladekomo, Chairman, Chams Consortium said the institution has shown faith in the project by committing resources to building infrastructures such as the ChamsCity digital malls located in Lagos, Abuja and PortHarcourt, which have the capacity to enroll thousands of Nigerians on a daily basis. “We are very elated at the near commencement of a project that will be of immense benefit to Nigeria and Nigerians. This project will provide job opportunities for Nigerians, because they will be engaged in the data capturing and smart card production exercise, which will definitely boost our country’s knowledge capacity base, making us all better off for it, instead of ceding it’s execution to foreign countries who will take such expertise and knowledge base outside of Nigeria.
“For a country with over 150 million people, with immense resources like Nigeria not to have a sound, secure and sustainable identity system that will stand the test of time, is a scandal. Therefore, we are committed towards creating this new beginning that would lead the way in the image and identity management for the people of this country. We are grateful to government for this opportunity which requires a lot of money to execute successfully. However, in conjunction with Nextzon, our strategic partner, we have been able to source the required funds for the successful takeoff of the project. We believe that this project will introduce a breath of new and fresh air in the identity management system for Nigerians,” he said.
On his part, Director General of NIMC, Dr Chris Onyemenam said the commission will use highly developed biometric technology to distinctively and clearly identify all registered individuals, through a database that will help streamline processes, enhance and make quality service delivery across government agencies and parastatals a reality, while also aiding planning and resource allocation at all tiers of government. Onyemenam described the about-to-commence national identity management project, a new scheme, which will produce a comprehensive database, based on the successful development and implementation of identity management schemes for the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Delta State Civil Service and the Nigerian Bar Association, using the same model.
“Identity Card is not the focus of NIMC, it is the database. The database is government’s responsibility because of its sensitive nature. What we have done is to reduce the cost of this project to government by seeking private sector partnerships in terms of funding and implementation. Our private sector partners will fund the project, collect data, populate the data centre, and issue the general multi-purpose cards after the data base is established, while also providing card acceptance devices with which verification can be done.
“In other countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, they have electronic databases that are running on the same principle. But in Nigeria, we don’t have that. The one we have is the finger print identity and it focuses only on issuing cards alone, not identity management. We are now working on the creation of a database which will be all encompassing,” Onyemenam disclosed.