ID Card of frustration? Why the National ID project is not on a fast lane

BAYO ALADE reports the frustrations encountered by Nigerians registering to obtain their national identification card at the offices of the National Identification Management Commission nationwide, noting that mobilisation, logistics and other factors are hindering the entire process.

 

RECENTLY,  the Federal Government declared tomorrow, September 16, 2019 as the National Identity Day in a practical move to create awareness on the importance of identification as a modern tool for national development and social cohesion in the country. It was the culmination of a process that began on April 24, 2018, when the ID-Day campaign was initiated during the 4th Annual Meeting of the ID4Africa Movement in Abuja, Nigeria as a global coalition calling for the recognition by the United Nations of September 16 – or 16.9 – as International Identity Day (ID Day).

By this declaration, Nigeria becomes the first country in the world to declare September 16 as her national identity Day. With this step taken the national identification card has thus returned to the front burners of national attention more especially because there are statements to the effect that the federal government has said that starting from next year Nigerians who don’t have the national identification card would not be able to access some government facilities.

The coordinator of National Identity Management Commission in Ekiti State, Mr Gbenga Ifayefunmi, hinted at this recently while presenting the ID card of Ekiti State deputy governor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi to him. Ifayefunmi underscored the importance of the national identification card, saying the inherent benefits made it imperative for all Nigerians to be registered for it.

According to him: “The card comes with many advantages because you will be asked to come with your National ID card before you can assess government facilities.

“It has unique numbers, social security numbers and can be used for health care, education, among others. In fact, by virtue of an Executive Order signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, you cannot obtain passport or driving licence without the National ID Card,” he said.

 

History

The idea of a National Identity Scheme was first muted in Nigeria in 1977 but, like many other projects in the making, it did not sail through implementation and quietly died a natural death. The idea came up again in 2003 when another scheme managed by the Directorate of National Civic Registration (DNCR) was initiated.

This time, about 54 million Nigerians were captured through the process that was expected to capture at least 100 million people. Thus, the scheme failed to meet official expectations. Not only this, allegations of corruption and embezzlement of funds were factors that effectively hampered the entire process.

In 2010, another effort was made with the coming on board of the National Identity Management Commission. For it to take off on a sound footing, an initial budget of about N30 billion was voted for it in the 2011 national budget.

To effectively discharge its duties, the NIMC entered into an agreement with National database and Registration Authority of Pakistan to develop computerised national identity cards for Nigerian citizens. NIMC also partnered with two consortiums – Chams Nigeria and OneSecureCard consortium – composed of Interswitch, SecureID, and Iris Technologies, the outfits expected to provide data capture services.

Almost ten tears down the line there is hardly a fool-proof figure of the number of Nigerians who had so far been registered under the scheme as millions of those who had started the process are still stuck in the middle unable to complete the process due to various reasons ranging from wrong information or errors concerning personal details of those being registered.

 

Eye of the needle

Since the process of registering Nigerians from age 16 upwards for the National ID scheme started, it was expected that it would not only be free, it would be smooth and hitch-free. Points of registration include local government secretariats, offices of the NIMC nationwide and private outfits purportedly endorsed by the federal government to carry out the registration process.

However, the experience of most Nigerians who are currently stuck at different stages of the registration process is to say the least not palatable. Millions of those who had started but have one error or the other to correct on their profiles are still not able to sail through many months later.

Marcus, (not real name) is one of those who have been stuck for the past several months in the process of the registration. He actually started the process last year at Ibadan South West Local government Area of Oyo State and paid N200. But as time went on it was discovered that there was an error on his entries. His own error concerned his date of birth.

According to Marcus, “My date of birth was 15th May, 1966 as filled in the NIMC enrolment form in the first instance, but when the registration was completed, it carried the date of 9th May, 1966. I later lodged complaints about this particular error and I was told that it was the data obtained from the Bank Verification Number (BVN) of my account that was used.

“To correct the error tagged ‘Date of Birth Modification’, I was asked to pay N15,000 into the Remita account (of the federal government) with an application letter to ask for the amendment of the error which I did and submitted with relevant documents including the photo page of my BVN, photo page of my international passport with 15th May, 1966 as date of birth.

“I submitted the application with evidence of payment of N15,000 plus N275.63 bank charges on January 30, 2019 but up till now, the error has yet to be rectified. My payment voucher reads Remita Retrieval Reference (RRR) number is 2702-7539-0245.

“The error is to be effected from the server only as date of birth will not reflect on the printed slip already issued until the permanent plastic Identity card will be ready.”

For nine months the issue has not been resolved. At a point the woman handling his case was said to have proceeded on her annual leave and the process was stalled until she resumed work. Even after the woman’s resumption, the status quo ante remained. Marcus, to say the least has become a frustrated man over the ID card issue.

“I went again to find out from the NIMC secretariat in Ibadan at about 12:35pm on Tuesday, September 10, 2019; the correction was yet to be effected as confirmed in their network computer system.

“Imagine! They told me that it usually takes time to correct an error even after the payment of fine. It’s rather unfortunate. This is not a question of begging for favours, it’s my right. I was asked to pay to correct an error on my data supplied which I did, but why should I pay and going to eight months, the NIMC refused to act on the case? It’s pathetic,” he lamented.

Marcus is not the only one in this quagmire. Investigations carried out by Sunday Tribune across the country revealed that most Nigerians in the process of obtaining their own ID cards are also confused and frustrated like Marcus.

Sunday Tribune reached out to the headquarters of the NIMC in Abuja and an officer who simply identified himself as Braimoh explained the rationale behind the delay in issuing the national identity card to Nigerians who had been captured.

According to him, the focus of the federal government has shifted from placing emphasis on production of the cards, to ensuring that all Nigerians, first and foremost, are captured.

He noted that once identified as a bona fide citizen of Nigeria, the federal government is desirous of capturing all so identified, and making the registration numbers available at the point of registration.

“Once you are registered and we issue you a number, you are already captured and the number you will get can be used for transactions anywhere, which means you can use it for required purposes. If you are talking about card production, I can tell you we are on (people who registered as far back as) October 2013 and anyone who registered during the period, will have their cards ready,” Braimoh said.

When asked for the total number of residents captured in Lagos State, he said an official request would have to be made to the commission’s director general, for approval and release of such figures.

When Sunday Tribune visited the NIMC office at New garage area of Ibadan, many people were seen hanging around not knowing what to do. Others were inside different offices depending on the stage of the registration they were. It was also discovered that some people who had registered did not pay anything initially but after further visits to collect their slips they were asked to pay N200 as running cost.

A young man in his early 30s who gave his name as Samuel Olamilekan discovered to his chagrin that Samuel had changed to Samad on the slip given to him. In confusion he tried to correct the error but has not been able to do so.

“Initially somebody here told me that I will pay N7000 to change it but I don’t have that money. Later I met somebody who said he could help me effect the change with N1000. I’m tired of coming here over and over again without achieving anything. I have so much to do in my shop,” he said.

Mrs Kemi Lawal, a trader started her own registration process about two weeks ago and paid N1500. N500 was collected for registration whole she was asked to pay N1000 for the colour slip given to her after registration.

However some people were lucky not to have paid a dime. Mr Ogunbayo Abiodun, a trader started his own registration process in May. No one demanded any amount of money from him and he was asked to come back after two weeks to collect a colour slip, which he can use temporarily. Same goes for Abdul-Akeem Akinreti, a resident of Ibadan who has collected his own card two or three years back though the process took about four years.

 

Road side registration

There were also many people who enrolled for the ID card through agents who claimed they were appointed by the NIMC to register Nigerians. After the registration, those enrolled paid between N200 and N700. When asked by Sunday Tribune what the money was meant for since the process was a federal government initiative and was supposed to be free, one of the agents when simply identifies himself as James said his outfit was only an agent and they bought the registration machines and other gadgets with their own money. So they needed to collect something from those they register.

 

Little children

When Sunday Tribune visited the NIMC headquarters in Ibadan, it was discovered that there were many children accompanied by their parents who came for registration. At least one parent confirmed he had registered his children whose ages range between eight and 14.

However the NIMC was clear about the age limit for Nigerians registering for the National ID card which is the age of 16 years.

In 2017 when the issue came up, the Head, Corporate Affairs of the commission, Mr. Loveday Ogbonna, told reporters that children were not qualified but however, they could only be issued with National Identification Number (NIN) and they must be accompanied by his or her parent or guardian, who must have obtained their NIC.

However, Sunday Tribune discovered that most of the parents who brought their children were yet to obtain their ID cards, as many of them complained bitterly about having to come several times.

An official of the commission who did not want to be identified said those enrolling for the National ID card need not be frustrated as only those who registered up to about six years ago have their card ready.

“Once you register, just be patient. The NIMC will send you an SMS to notify you of when your card will be ready.

 

Unofficial figures

Most states where Sunday Tribune sought to find out the official figure were not able to supply the figures. Sunday Tribune was told that only the national headquarters has the figures as it was always changing.

However, Kebbi State office of NIMC said only about 15 per cent of the expected population has so far been captured. State coordinator of the commission, Umar Bello Bagudo who did not give an accurate figure said only the National Office in Abuja could provide such information. He said turnout of the people in the 21 local governments has been the commission’s main problem. “Turnout of people for this exercise is very poor, not encouraging at all,” he said dejectedly.

He blamed the state government and the state office of the National Orientation Agency for not doing enough publicity and awareness campaigns. He also lamented that logistics were poor as constant power failure means the office has to fuel power generators so often with its own funds.

The State coordinator wants the State government, NOA Traditional and Religious leaders in the State to intensify efforts by telling the people of the need to come forward to enrol for their identity.

For Benue State the figure from the NIMC office hovers around 700,000 but it is not official. Coordinator of the state office of the NIMC, Garba Ibrahim told Sunday Tribune said the turnout has been very low and that after registration at different source harmonization is the next stage.

“In harmonization we get this through data in other organizations like Bank Verification Number, BVN. Lots of people have already been harmonised and registered. We are only waiting to for them to complete the biometrics with us. So on that, I will not be able to get give the exact number,” he said.

The situation in Zamfara State is not different where according to the state coordinator of NIM Mallam Musa Usman, only 12.5 per cent of the population had been registered. Speaking further, Mallam Usman disclosed that low turnout occasioned by low mobilization and enlightenment across the 14 local governments of the state has been hampering the registration process in the state, lamenting that most residents come forward for registration when they have issues with their banks.

 

—Additional stories by AYODELE AJOGE, JOHNSON and PHILLIP THOMAS.

Comments