Vice President highlights gains of harmonized digital identity ecosystem

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja


Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has highlighted the importance of harmonized digital identity ecosystem, saying it is critical to the implementation of government’s economic policies and social protection.

Prof Osinbajo stated this over the weekend while receiving an update on the Digital Identity Programme of the Buhari administration.

He commended the efforts of the inter-ministerial committee handling the project and stressed the importance of a unique digital National Identity Number (NIN) for Nigerians.

A statement from the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, said the vice president expressed hope that the programme would be completed on time.

“We await the completion of this task with expectations,” the Vice President said, and appreciated the support of development partners including the World Bank, French Development Agency (Agence Française De Développement, AFD) both of whom are supporting the programme.

The digital identity programme is being handled by Nigeria’s ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, involved in identity management and are members of the Harmonisation Committee.

The Harmonisation Committee also includes the Office of the National Security Adviser, and other security agencies, the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC,  National Population Commission, NPC, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, and the Nigerian Communications Commission,NCC.

Others are the  Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN; Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC; Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS; National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS and PENCOM.

New Approach

The committee is tasked with developing a Strategic Roadmap for developing a Harmonised Digital National Identity Ecosystem that will strengthen & digitise the ID system and the adoption of a new approach that ensures harmonisation and effectiveness in ID management in Nigeria.

A brief presented by representatives of identity agencies and development partners at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa showed that the FG has made substantial progress and has endorsed a Strategic Roadmap document that ensures the ID system and the issuance of National Identity numbers to Nigerians would henceforth progress faster than it had been in the past.

From the progress report presented to the Vice President, Nigeria will achieve full digital identity  in the next three years, while efforts are ongoing to get all identity-related agencies to harmonize databases and work towards achieving the same objectives.

Speaking with State House correspondents after the meeting, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on ICT, Mr Lanre Osibona who is  coordinating the programme, explained that the Identity harmonisation programme is critical to a number of policies and initiatives being implemented by the Buhari administration.

“If you look at it in terms of our programme on social safety nets, financial inclusion, the need to develop a digital economy that supports e-commerce, e-payment/e-transactions and other innovations, identity is a critical aspect, so this is very key for us – to make sure that we can capture every Nigerian,” he said.

Also commenting the Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, Engr Aliyu Aziz stated that the commission was close to achieving harmonization of 30 million identities on its system.

He explained that the focus of government at present and in the next three years would be to give digital identification (NIN) rather than the issuance of permanent identification cards to Nigerians.

He said: “with the new approach, the ecosystem approach, it has been agreed that all agencies of government providing functional identity will work with NIMC in a collaborative manner so that it can move quickly to cover the whole population. The timeline to cover the whole population is about three years.”

World Bank

The World Bank has also offered to support Nigeria in the development of the ID system that works for the people, having agreed to embrace the Strategic Roadmap that ensures seamless processing of unique identity numbers for Nigerians.

According to Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria who was also at the meeting, “the World Bank Group is pleased to support the Federal Government of Nigeria in its goal of achieving universal digital identification for Nigeria.”

He expressed the World Bank’s gratitude for the leadership of the Vice President in bringing all the concerned agencies around a strategic roadmap for the development and implementation of a common, robust ID platform for effective access to services.

Some of the other FG agency heads present at the meeting included the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Mr Mohammed Babandede and the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Boboye Oyeyemi, among others.