Many watchers of the Buhari Government must have been alarmed by the ‘satanic views’ credited to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the effect that national identity cards will be used as voters’ cards for the 2019 elections. This vexatious kite flying was actually the handwork of the deputy chief of staff in the office of the VP, Mr. Ade Ipaye.
Newspaper reports said that the Vice President at a forum inside the State House in Abuja, revealed a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari that the national identity cards be used to authenticate eligible voters beginning from the 2019 general elections. The VP was also reported to have informed the gathering that the president also directed that the national identification number be used for “access to health, insurance, registration of SIM cards, access to the social welfare programmes of this administration and for all financial transactions.”
The foregoing sounds like a script written by the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC; the agency saddled with providing Nigerians with identity numbers and the management of the national identity database.This government agency established in 2007 is the successor of the National Identity Card Project enmeshed in a cesspit of corrupt enrichment by politicians and civil servants during the era of President Olusegun Obasanjo. To recall, Obasanjo’s friend and former minister of internal affairs, Sunday Afolabi and a few civil servants were in 2004 slammed in jail in a $242 million scandal.
More than ten years in operation and after gulping billions of naira, NIMC cannot boast of more than 10 million people on its database. More significant is the fact nobody can vouch that those captured are truly Nigerians! It is therefore worrisome that President Buhari will take such a monumental decision on this opaque national identity card scheme.
It is salutary that the office of the VP has since denied the faux pas created by Mr. Ipaye who has failed or refused to obtain adequate information from the Minister of National Planning on the proper way to register Nigerians and create a national comprehensive database. After all the VP is the chairman of the National Planning Commission!
Thinking aloud, why are our policy makers still expecting government to throw scarce resources away in the name of national identity registration and national census? This country is probably the only one pursuing discarded ideas on national head count and citizen identification. But we should blame lack of institutional memory and selfish government officials. If not, why is the present government searching for new clues when way back in 2007, the Obasanjo Government had identified the Basic Registration and Information System, BRISIN, as a platform to tackle these issues in an holistic manner?
The project, approved in 2007 by the Federal Executive Council, has suffered a setback owing to selfish political scheming by successive ministers in charge of national planning. On June 17, last year, an implementation committee was raise by the National Bureau of Statistics on the instructions of the National Planning minister.
The technical committee on the project cuts across several agencies, including representatives of NIMC, the National Bureau of Statistics, the National Planning Commission, office of the National Security Adviser, National Population Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service as well as Federal Ministries of Finance, Interior, Defence, Health, Education among other relevant federal agencies.
BRISIN is best described as the one cure that Nigeria needs for all its ailments. It is conceived as a national integrated data and information infrastructure capable of providing a solid foundation for planning and socio-economic growth. It also provides a holistic way of fighting corruption, insecurity and unemployment because it captures full demographic information of all inhabitants in a central pool right from the hamlets to the federal capital. Experts say that the system, operated in Italy, will run on a robust ICT platform that enables the collection and usage of statistical data on individual profiles including family compositions, internal migration and employment status, agricultural and commercial activities. It facilitates and guarantees regular and continuous assessment and management of the economy at the national and local levels; keeps crimes under check; prevents corruption; assists in revenue tax collection and helps in tracking macro economic data for development.
Implementation of BRISIN is perhaps the smartest way for providing appropriate and sufficient data gathering and sharing as solution to assist in national planning, including the much sought job creation. Through this initiative, about 2 million jobs can be created by establishing documentation centres in all the 8,812 wards in Nigeria from where information will be sent to the 774 local governments, to states and the central hub. Experts even reckon that BRISIN can generate 10 million jobs in five years.
What is now left for this government is to actualize the scheme; a system that seamlessly captures data and information on all individuals and enterprises of social and economic value within the country.
*Kareem is a national coordinator of the BRISIN Project
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