Political scientists believe that national identity is fundamental to a country’s branding; indicating citizens’ identity or sense of belonging to a state or a country.
They are unanimous in describing it as the logic of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics.
Further to this, observers note that national identity is an integral part of nation-building, by all standards, which importance cannot be underestimated.
In the light of this, the last Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the immediate commencement of the implementation of a strategic roadmap for Digital Identity Ecosystem in Nigeria.
It is a framework that leverages on the existing capabilities and infrastructure of distinct government agencies and private sector organisations to carry out enrolment of Nigerians and legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB).
This process will also result in the issuance of digital identity, National Identification Number (NIN), to give Nigeria a credible and robust identity management system.
Observers, therefore, note that the approval of the Identity Ecosystem by the government will bring into full force the implementation of the provisions of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act 23, 2007, which include the enforcement of the mandatory use of the NIN by Jan. 1, 2019.
They advise stakeholders to adhere to the provision of Section 28 of the NIMC Act and Regulations that approves appropriate sanctions and penalties for defaulters in the implementation process.
The Director-General of NIMC, Engr. Aliyu Aziz, observed that the strategic roadmap for Digital Identity Ecosystem “falls in line with the federal government’s efforts to reposition the country’s status in the global economy’’.
He noted that the roadmap would boost the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) that was inaugurated in 2017.
“ERGP is designed as an omnibus strategy for the government to meet the critical needs of the citizenry in areas such as food security, energy, transport, human capital development, but more critically developing a local digital economy.
“More enrolment centres for national identity registration would be created to meet the World Bank standard of 50,000 people per registration centre,’’ he said.
He pleaded with lawmakers that while the government would be active in fast-tracking the process of national identity registration, the National Assembly should raise a motion for the mandatory use of the NIN for all services and transactions by both the Federal Government and private organisations.
But the former House of Representatives Committee on National Population and Identity demanded that NIMC should work towards achieving accurate population figure for the country.
The committee noted that in-depth publicity of NIN registration to the public would help the commission to achieve its mandate.
Hon. Aminu Sani, former chairman of the committee, observed that Nigeria, as the most populous country in Africa, needed accurate population figure for proper planning.
Similarly, Hon. Dickson Tarkighir, a former member of the committee, noted that without an accurate figure, “government at all levels cannot make plans and or implement policies effectively. There is no way the Nigerian government can plan effectively without knowing how many we are in the country.’’
According to him, since the country has not been able to conduct another population census since 2007, NIMC is in the position to help solve the problem of providing accurate population figure.
“This is because NIMC has a central identity database and also issues the NIN which is the unique identifier,’’ he said.
The committee also urged the commission to strengthen its collaboration with partner agencies in enforcing the mandatory use of the NIN in 2019.
To meet the January 2019 target for the use of NIN, the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) assured the public that it would be ready to collaborate with the NIMC to create and maintain a reliable identity database for the country.
The Managing Director, NSPM, Mr Abbas Masanawa, said “the NSPMC is tasked with the responsibility, among other things, to print all security documents in the country to enable the government create employment, stabilise exchange rates and strengthen the economy.
“The NSPMC will collaborate with NIMC on the printing of the NIN slip and strategise with NIMC on other possible ways to partner.
“We are ready to domesticate the printing of the National e-ID Card by scaling up our equipment and capacity to meet up to the NIMC standard of card production such as we did with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“I believe that this partnership would allow us to be part of the success story of NIMC as we all strive to take our organisations to the next level’’.
Assessing its importance, Hon. Ebi Ololo, who represented Nembe Constituency I in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, said that national identity registration would be useful for social and economic inclusion.
He called on NIMC to open more enrolment centres across various wards in the state for NIN registration to meet up with the population.
“NIN is crucial to lives of Nigerians and legal residents, being the unique identifier for all; it should be viewed the same way the social security number is regarded in the U.S., as the National Insurance Number is valued in the UK, or the AADHAR number in India,’’ he said.
However, NIMC claimed that it had, so far, captured more than 33 million Nigerians in its data base as at October 2018.
Head of Corporate Communications NIMC, Mr Loveday Ogbonna, explained that the figure comprised both adults and children.
He decried the low turnout of children in the NIN registration, saying “the registration for NIN is a lifetime opportunity and having NIN as an individual will strengthen and aid service delivery’’.
Ogbonna further noted that obtaining NIN would promote socio-economic inclusion as well as development for many Nigerians.
He advised Nigerians and the legal residents to take their children and wards of all ages for enrolment at any NIMC registration centres across the country.
“Enrolment of minors is ongoing and has no age bracket, parents are encouraged to bring children that are one year and above in age so that the camera can capture their faces very well.
“What we have observed is that it is difficult to take pictures of children below one year of age, so we advise parents to wait until their kids are one year old.
“Parents and guardians must present their NIN and their children’s birth certificate before their children or ward can be enrolled and issued a National Identification Number,’’ he said.
He, therefore, advised that Nigerians should utilise the opportunity to get registered, noting that NIN has so many social benefits, including unhindered access to government services.
“It also enables you to assert your identity; nobody mistakes you for another; no matter how identical you are, NIN singles you out,’’ Ogbonna said.
He, nonetheless, warned against double enrolment in the National Identity Database for the NIN, describing it as a crime and punishable offence.
Nwachukwu writes for News Agency of Nigeria.