Yet another ID card for Nigerian citizens

Nigeria is been having bad luck when it comes to national id cards for a long time. Previous efforts ended with large scale corruption scandal, like the one in 2003 or some later attempts with poor adoption rate. This attempt is promised to work at last. Let’s take a look into the details. 

While historically national identification project in Nigeria was a failure we can’t say there was no benefit from those efforts. National Identity Number (NIN) is one of those things that worked. Even if not too many residents applied and obtained the number a working infrastructure already exists, legislation process is complete and country administration is ready. Also a lesson learned from mistakes could be useful when planning for next steps.

ID card issued starting 2011 was very modern for the time. It incorporated biometric details and a smart contact chip which would integrate with providing various services. All these great features however did not manage to catch enough desire of the country population. Since Nigeria struggles with banking system accessibility issues the next best this is said to be an ID card integrated with MasterCard branded banking solution. For those not familiar with the situation it’s estimated that close to half of adult population of the country has no access to banking services in any form. The statistics go significantly worse when focused on women, senior citizens or rural areas residents where over 80 percent is estimated to be excluded from the personal finance system.

Estimates show that as many as 13 million Nigerian would be included into banking system thanks to the national identification program which makes it the largest inclusion project in Africa if it works this time. Such development could result in to giant leap when it comes to the country economic and civilization progress

Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) which runs the project of enrolling all country residents age 16 and over to the National Electronic (e-ID) card system will be exclusively managing the data centers while financial part of the enterprise would be handled by Nigerian banks and Unified Payments one of the largest payment processing company also owned by Nigerian banks. e-ID holder would be capable of depositing funds, pay for goods and services, obtain social benefits and draw cash from ATM machines. MasterCards logo additionally allows to use the card for payments outside of the country.

So far the program has only cost $42.5 million which is change when you look at national range programs from the US perspective. With initial apathy overcame the enrollment centers capacity is being constantly overstretched according to NIMC officials. There are only a few centers at the present time which is explained with budgets constraints. Since the project is executed in private-public partnership every penny spent is carefully watched and it’s not surprising banks wouldn’t spend more than needed for an idea that failed so many times.

Many eyes are watching the progress of Nigerian e-ID implementation. What works in a country with underdeveloped infrastructure, large areas of poverty and high wealth disproportion should work in many countries in similar situation. After many mistakes and failures the general population sentiment towards the program may quickly turn around once any mistake is made. It’s part of global consensus that a country can’t move forward without fully adopted, integrated and reliable national identification system. ID cards and id badges in the form of national IDs, e-IDs, driver licenses and recently more and more smart phone applications become indispensable part of humanity and civil liberty just as a right to vote, which also more and more often requires identification even in well developed and settled democracies as the United States.