More than a year after the flag-off of the Nigerian Identity Card registration exercise, Peoples Daily went round some states of the federation to get the views of Nigerians on theexercise so far; Evelyn Okakwu, Tobias Legnan Dapam, Suleiman Idris from Lagos, Ado Musa in Jos and Olanrewaju Lawal from Ilorin reports.
In most societies in the world today, the numeration of people is vital for even and credible development. All over the world, leadership has gradually become a by-product of the collection of information and the use of same in the allocation of resources.
More so, for a country as large as Nigeria, the place of numeric data collection for effective leadership cannot be over emphasized. Both leaders and the led need to have a common identity through which detailed information about us can easily be accessed for various reasons.
In addition, the rate of crime recently experienced in most parts of the country further buttresses the importance of proper identification of citizens in order to address crime related issues more pro-actively.
Thus in 2007, the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) Act 2007 was established to ensure the creation of the NIMC, including its function and powers. These include the establishment of the National Identity Database, assignment and use of General Multi-purpose cards, including the National Identification Number (NIN). The Act also provides the Commission with powers to make regulations connected with its functions.
The NIMC Act 2007 is a re-enactment of the law that created the former Department of National Civic Registration (DNCR) and the transfer of its assets and liabilities to the NIMC. The NIMC therefore became responsible by the act creating it for the proper documentation of every data relating to Nigerians.
The enrolment processes consist of the recording of an individual’s demographic data, capture of 10 fingerprints, head-to-shoulder facial picture and digital signature, which are all used to cross-check existing data in the National Identity Database to confirm that there is no previous entry of the same data.
The NIMC has said it is doing everything possible to meet the December 31, 2014 deadline for closure of the Nigerian Identity Number registration.Though the pilot exercise on the scheme started in Abuja on February 23, 2012, Onyemenam has said that the pilot exercise was extended to each state and now to the 774 local government areas.
However certain issues have arisen from the present abysmal activities of NIMC. With the enormous number of its citizens and the practical failure of the DNCR, many wonder whether the programme will indeed become a success and ask how soon Nigerians over the age of 16 can become fully represented in the NIMC data base.
Despite previous reports that the registration is expected to take place in all parts of the country, only one centre is provided for the registration in the whole of Jos, the Plateau state capital.Accordin g to our reporter, the only registration centre in the area is the one at Lamingo, in Jos-East local government area.This, he says, is a remote location, like so many of such scattered all over the country,which hinders the effort of many Nigerians willing to participate in the exercise.
He adds that a close observation reveals that people from other 16 local government areas have to come all the way to Lamingo centre for the registration.
“In Plateau state, the on-going NIMC has been faced with so many challenges. These have in various ways constituted hitches to the programme in the state.
A sample of the people’s feelingswhere the registration areas are not located in popular spots reveals thatgenerally, people feel discouraged about having to come all the way from the remaining sixteen local government areas just to get themselves registered.
Abubakar Sale, one of those who came for his registration at Lamingo, said although he was successfully registered by the NIMC, it took him several weeks to achieve the feat.
In his words: “People have to even go and make an on-line pre-registration outside the centre for their pictures and bio-metrics to be easily captured.”According to reports, the free on-line registration was facilitated by the support of Honourable Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande.
Aisha Usman is another person that said she had been going for the registration for almost four days before she could be registered.
According to her: “The venue is too far from the town and I used to go to the venue as early as 6:30 am for four consecutive days before I could finally get registered.
From Ilorin, Olanrewaju Lawal reports that the programme has not been as successful as had been anticipated. According to him; “In Kwara state, the NIMC Office locatedalong Asa Dam is still operating with the old system of registration.
A visit to the head office of NIMC revealed that many youngNigerians and some few old ones were sighted inside the hall of theCommission filing the forms.
Some of the staff of the NIMC were seen operating with laptops andscanning machines processing the National Identity cards forapplicants.
Our correspondent observed that some applicants who had registered two weeks ago came back for the issuance of Identity cards but they were told to check back because their cards are not ready.Efforts to speak with senior officers of the NIMC office proved abortive.But a reliable source inside the Commission told our correspondentthat the Commission is trying to decentralize the processes of theregistration by opening offices in all 16 local government areas of thestate.
The source, who craved anonymity, said most of the buildings provided by the local government chairman to the Commission were old and dilapidated, and that their environments are not comfortable.
In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, Barrister Obed Juan, who said he went through the process, told ourreporter that though the initiative was commendable, the commissionshould have provided enough machines for the exercise.
“This process is very slow; I am sure the authorities did not foreseesome of the challenges of the exercise. They did not know the numberof people it will capture in a day before promising Nigerians thatthey will complete the project in December 2014.
“I am assuring you that even by the end of next year, the exercise willnot be completed. We are talking of almost one hundred million people tobe captured in the country. I would suggest that the authoritiesshould begin to reach out to people at the grassroots because concentrating in the city centers will not ensure success.
Also speaking, a market woman, Madam Agnes Umaru, said she is notaware of the exercise. She said she is not the only market woman whois not aware of the exercise but that so many of them don’t know aboutit.
The woman said there should be enough sensitization for peopleabout the exercise. The woman, who spoke in Hausa, said the authoritiesshould be more serious if the exercise is targeted at every body.
“I don’t have any problem with any exercise carried out by thegovernment. But I think we have the right to know what the governmentis doing for us. If we know anything about it, we will begin to lookfor where to do it if we have the time. But the truth is that I didnot know until now”.
On his part, Umaru Sani, who said he could not register due topersisting long queue, insisted that something needs to be done to makethe exercise available to all.
“I cannot leave my business all the time because I want to register. Ihave gone there severally but the long queue I see could not allow meto register. I am a business man and I cannot sit there for hourswithout being registered. For now,I am going to wait pending when people will reduce before I will register.
The story from Lagos was in some extent better than the previousones, as reported by our correspondent: he reports that the registration exercise in the commission’s office is going on in earnest.
According to him, people from all parts of the state come in to the office to avail themselves of the opportunity to own the identification number. This is evident in the number of persons present at the office witnessed.
The exercise has become a daily one for those who wish to capture their data on the Central Data system; although some of the staff did confess to the tedious nature of attending to hundreds of Lagosians, mostof them said that since it is their duty, they are proud to be doing it.
Madam Folake, who said shehad also arrived early to register, feels the new Identity Card is worth carrying. However, she said the agency must carry out a more robust enlightenment campaign across the state in order to hasten up the registration of eligible Nigerians.
Another applicant, an Air Force Officer, who said he arrived at the venue with six other persons, asked to remain anonymous. He said he came from the Air Force Base in Ikeja, for the exercise. He applauded the efforts of the commission and that of government, but said that a lot needed to be done to facilitate the success of the programme.
These according to him, include providing internet facility, among other things. He however expressed satisfaction with the exercise. “l came here because of the queue at the Air Force Base and the fact that the facility over there did experience hiccup”, he told Peoples Daily.
Likewise, a police woman from the state’sPolice Command did explain to our correspondent that due to the nature of their job, such national ID cards are a must-have requirement, particularly for the military.
A senior staff of NIMC also confirmed that the Lagos office has kicked-off the registration exercise for last week Saturday and advised those who are not able to make it in the course of the week to take advantage of the weekend opportunity to capture their name.
He explained that rather than taking the tedious journey to Alausa, Lagosians can visit otherNIMC offices in Agege, Nigerian Air Force Base in Ikeja, Nigerian Army Ikeja cantonment, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Ikoyi and the Lagos State University (LASU) in Ojo, in order to decongest the regional office.
The officer, who craved anonymity, disclosed that six more registration centres will beopened in the next few weeks across local government and development areas of the state.
However, many believe there is still more to be done in order to capture a sizable population. Kennedy, an electronic dealer in Alaba International Market in Ojo, however said NIMC needs to do more to capture majority of the citizens of the country that reside in Lagos.
“Because of the commercial nature of Lagos, that is why we are here; so since we can do all the registration here without going to our state of origin, let NIMC employ more hands and try to do a “door-to-door” registration exercise. We are business people; so let them device some simple method of carrying out the exercise.”
He said, “It has been done in the time past and a similar thing can be re-incarnated; many Lagosians are always on the move, so for you to get them, you must go to their homes.”
On the aggregate, many Lagosians believe that while the exercise could be regarded as encouraging, a lot still needs to be done if Federal Government wants to achieve the vision of having all adult Nigerians well documented.
Angela Majekodunmi, one of those who had come to have herself registered at the NIMC office said she is glad about the way the programme is going but hopes that it will not suffer the same fate as the previous one. According to her, Nigeria has a way of coming up with good polices but the problem is sustenance.
Responding to enquiries by the Peoples Daily, in response to the woman’s fears, the Director of corporate communications, NIMC, Mr. Okwudiafor Anthony, says the NIMC has so many features that will make it practically impossible for it to just die like that. He said apart from the fact that the NIMC plans to issue a MasterCard-branded National identification smart cards, which will be used for electronic payments, the NIMC also plans to partner with the US and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to have a Central Data system. He added that polices formulating the NIMC are such that the commission will be indifferent to political changes within the country. This, he said, is because NIMC has the capacity to handle the multitude of Nigerians irrespective of any impending growth, which will make it easy for government at any setting to identify with the commission for proper identity management.
Mr. Anthony added that the commission has a current database capacity to store over 300 million Nigerian’s data and that the number of persons registering at the Commission’s office in Abuja on a daily bases ranges from 400 to 500.
Also, the director noted that the Abuja branch of NIMC has six other branches within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),but this number is only for those within the Federal capitalterritory.He explained that the commission has since empowered some of its staff with training from abroad to obtain the necessary qualification to boost the exercise. Investigations by Peoples Daily however, show that the exercise is not withoutits challenges, even within the FCT.
According to Mr. Anthony, part of the reasons why the programme seemed to be lagging behind is that the commission lacked the necessary hands to make it fast. However, with the recent training of members as well as the commencement of the registration exercise, he says the commission is ready to improve upon the speed of registration, adding that the commission now has a mobile enrolment vehicle that moves to places to get people registered.
Even recent reports have it that some university campuses have beenequipped across the country to carry out the exercise,yet still, the share fact that the NIMC cannot boast of making these identity cards readily available to the registered Nigerians summed up with other factors earlier highlighted make the successful of whole exercise more or less doubtful.