After over six-year hiatus, the much anticipated National Identity Database project has commenced in earnest, as the National Identity management Commission recently commissioned enrolment centres set up in Lagos and Abuja, by leading homegrown Information and Communication Technology company, Chams Plc. The National Identity Database project was conceived in 2006, in the wake of the failure of the National Identity Card project, and its subsequent rejection as a means of identification by commercial banks.
Given the overwhelming importance of Identity Management system in any nation, the Department for National Civic Registration (DNCR) transmuted into the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in 2007, under the Obasanjo administration; and was saddled with the responsibility of creating the National Database for the country and also issuing the General Multi Purpose Card through a Public Private Partnership Initiative.
The NIMC threw its doors open to local and international players to bid in a transparent and competitive manner for the project. The competitive bidding threw up Mr. Demola Aladekomo led Chams Consortium as best man for the job. The consortium was awarded the National Identity Database project for implementation via a PPP model.
More interesting is the fact that the Chams Consortium is led by Mr. Aladekomo, a leading technology guru and staunch advocate of appropriate, non – repudiable identity Management scheme for Nigeria, since the late 1980s. For Aladekomo, whose Chams Plc has recorded a lot of firsts in spite of being wholly homegrown, the National Identity Database project may be described as a dream come true; since it will aid the growth and development of electronic commerce in the country.
Reiterating the importance of national identity database, and how it is long overdue for the country to have one, Mr. Aladekomo said: “In simple terms Identity Management is the identification and management of those attributes that are used to assert that you are who you claim to be.The process of Identity management is to standardize communication between institutions across the country – FRSC, NIS, NPS, NCC, NHIS, FIRS, PENCOM etc, so that one can identify, verify and authenticate each citizen for their true identity.”
Going by the myriads of issues that Nigeria has faced in the international community, coupled with the suspicion that greets anything or one named Nigeria; it is expedient that we put in place a non-repudiable identity management database for the country that will enable well meaning Nigerians to forge ahead in life without unnecessary harassment or unjust treatment owing to lack of integrity of identity; One that will enable easy access to credit because the bank is confident of the identity of its client; visa and passport issuance becomes easier and life invariable for all its citizenry.
In the letter of award to the consortium, the government stated that the scheme would be implemented as a build, Transfer and Operate agreement. The partnership which is subject to a Build, Transfer and Operate Agreement, would cover areas of conceptualization, design, development, execution and management of the front end operations of the proposed systems. The secretariat of the Implementation Committee will arrange for the proper documentation of and subsequent execution of the agreement.
In implementing the project, the Chams Consortium plays a pivotal role, which is to capture data, issue smart cards and provide the card acceptance devices, among other, with the aim of recouping its investment in 10 years.
Also speaking on the project, Director General of NIMC, Dr Chris Onyemenam said, “the ID card is not the focus, it is the data base. The private sector will issue the card after the data base is established. They will provide card acceptance devices with which verification can be done. In other countries, such projects are sponsored by the government but because it is capital intensive, countries like UK, USA, created an arrangement to enable agencies cross check what everybody wants to know.
“They go through various data base to confirm the identity of a person. They have electronic data bases 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 is focus only on issuing card, not identity management. We are having a data base which will include everybody and all parastatals that deal with people. What they just need to do is to connect with us and get what they want.
“The data base itself is government’s responsibility because of its sensitive nature. But what we want to do is to try as much as possible to reduce the cost for government for this reform, which is why we are bringing in the private sector. In terms of collection of data and populate the data centre, the private sector is responsible for that.”
Mr. Aladekomo disclosed further that the Chams Consortium has in show of faith in this project by committing resources to infrastructures such as the Guinness world certified ChamsCities located in Lagos, Abuja, PortHarcourt and Benin; the deployment of the 40,000 point of transaction terminals nationwide, the rural communication community centres being deployed in partnership with NITDA et al.
“We are very elated by the signing of this agreement as it marks the commencement of the project which will immensely benefit the country, the brand – Nigeria, and Nigerians. It will also provide job opportunities for Nigerians, because they will be engaged in the data capturing and smart card production exercise. This definitely will boost our country’s knowledge capacity base and we will be better off for it, instead of ceding it’s executed to foreign countries who will take such expertise and knowledge base outside of Nigeria’’, Aladekomo added.
Already the Chams Consortium has got a biometric database of over 2million Nigeria from other identity projects it has carried out, and has shown its strength and commitment to the development of the identity security in Nigeria.