President Goodluck Jonathan will on Thursday formally launch the rollout of electronic identity cards, which will assert Nigerians’ identity, writes Kunle Aderinokun
AA ceremony, which announced that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) would be issuing MasterCard-branded national e-identity cards turned out to be one of the most important features of World Economic Forum (WEF) in South Africa for Nigeria.
Present at the ceremony for the announcement in South Africa were the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and DG, NIMC, Mr. Chris Onyemenam, who represented Nigeria. Also present was the President for the Middle East and African region, Mr. Michael Miebach, representing MasterCard.
The scheme allows the global electronic pay company to issue 13 million cards to Nigerians and legal residents in the country in the first instance. Even in its pilot phase, the national e-ID card which is now ready for launch on Thursday, August 28, 2014 by President Goodluck Jonathan is not only the largest formal rollout of an electronic payment solution in the country but also the broadest platform for financial inclusion in the continent.
Onyemenam said at the forum in South Africa that the biometric infrastructure, which is collectively called the National Identity Management Systems (NIMS) in Nigeria has the capacity to store details of over 300 million Nigerians and legal residents in the country. In addition, the data capture and storage and retrieval system includes authentication and verification services, amongst other value propositions.
With the launch, the identity sector in the country would for the first time be in the position to win back not only the confidence of Nigerians but also make national identity management services and infrastructure to be relied upon by the world. “We are talking about unique identification of Nigerians and legal residents which must be relied upon by all,” said Onyemenam.
What this means is that, also, for the first time, the new national e-ID card will attract positive recognition and respect for Nigerians especially at international gateways and land borders. “One of the most important functions is the payment function, which for now is supported by MasterCard,” noted Onyemenam in an interview recently.
“And for MasterCard to accept to collaborate with us speaks volumes. It means that we have the right ideas and vision. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the right qualifications or criteria that would qualify our cards to be accepted worldwide as a MasterCard card are met and observed and adhered to very strictly.”
The national e-ID card has Access Bank as the pilot issuer institution. Other issuer institutions that are to join in subsequent phases include Zenith Bank, United Bank for Africa, Unity Bank as well as Skye Bank, Unity Bank and First Bank. It is equally noteworthy that the launch of the national e-ID card is coming on the heels of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification in Abuja.
ISO/IEC which stands for International Standards Organisation (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are foremost global rules agencies. While ISO, on the one hand, has thousands of guidelines which touch on almost all aspects of human life, IEC, on the other hand, is the conformity assessment body for all fields of electrotechnology.
Performing audit and accreditation for the certification was the British Standard Institute, a UK firm which has over 100 years of experience on global best practices. In the last one century since it began business, the BSI has helped more than 72,000 organisations ranging from top global brands to small ambitious businesses in 150 countries.
As a matter of fact, the NIMC strategy has been to complete the information security protection audit before the commencement of mass issuance of the new e-ID cards in the country. Digital Jewels implemented the full ISMS process and conducted a mock audit and, after a few adjustments, invited the BSI as independent auditors to conclude the certification of the NIMC system.
Together, the ISO/ICE 27001:2005 certification and the collaboration with MasterCard have enabled the activation of the third of five components of the national identity management systems (NIMS).
“We have delivered on the third component of the NIMS. The card is the one everyone wants to see. We will give it to you but it should be noted that it’s not even the most important aspect of the NIMS. The remaining four components are the national identity database, the unique identification number, identity and verification services as well as the harmonisation and integration of databases.
The national identification number (NIN), which is the Nigerian equivalent of the social security number in the United States, is erected on a central and secure national database.
According to Onyemenam, “this number is unique to you and that is the one we expect that you should get almost immediately. Once your personal information has been cross-checked and verified, the number will be automatically generated. That number is just for you and no one else. It can’t be shared; it can’t be reproduced; it can’t be replicated and it can’t be reassigned to someone else. Even in death, the number is rested forever.”
“The card is only a means of carrying some portion of your identity in your pocket for purpose of asserting or confirming your identity. It is actually the number [NIN] that is your identity, if you want to refer to any single thing as your identity. So NIN is the universal identification infrastructure system that we have put in place. Every other thing takes its life from that number. This certification is based on the audit of what we have put in place to ensure secure management of personal information and privacy of individuals. So, it means we have kept faith with our promise to meet global best practice in the roll out of NIMS infrastructure,” the NIMC boss clarified.
Onyemenam says the certification amongst other international rules and guidelines backing the operation of NIMC, will help to sanitise the image of the country around the world.
He asserts in fact that the best way to go about improving the image of the country and ensure that the world takes Nigeria serious is through technology. “We have put in place an infrastructure that is technology-driven and based on a verifiable global best practice and this has been so acknowledged by an international standards institute,” Onyemenam adds.
“We are serious about the image of Nigeria and playing by global rules of engagement for such acceptance about issues around the dignity of the Nigerian International status. The world is about to receive a unique card from Nigeria,” he stated, adding: “For the first time the national e-ID will have a payment solution, something that is unprecedented in the world and that’s why so many critics believed it can never happen.
“Very few public sector institutions have this kind of certification. We opted for this as part of credibility-built measures as we know so many people have lost faith in the ability of the public sector to create a basic and support infrastructure to get this identity management issue behind us.
“We now need to achieve the GVCP (GigE Vision Stream Protocol) to silence them forever and face the more daunting task of sustainability. For me the single mindedness of purpose bears fruit when things like this come true,” Onyemenam concluded.