I like statistics when used correctly. Statistics tell us any trends in what happened in the past and can be useful in predicting what may happen in the future. My task in this piece is very simple. I will use the statistics around two major projects with similar objective to prevail on authority to change its strategies.
The two projects in question are the National Nigerian National Electronic Identity Card (e-ID) cards and the Bank Verification Card (BVN) enrolments. On August 28, 2014, the e-ID card was unveiled and the card issuance process formally kicked off with the aim of issuing and managing over 120 million e-ID cards within the next five to ten years. One year after Director General of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Dr. Chris Onyemenam told journalists that only seven million Nigerians were captured under the scheme.
On June 16, 2014, banks in Lagos started the capturing of customers’ biometric. The data capturing exercise, initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] and the Bankers’ Committee, is part of the BVN and KYC system. In addition, just one year after the banks have enrolled over 20 million customers, the Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System [NIBSS] informed said.
This came barely seven weeks to the October 31, 2015 deadline set by the CBN. The CBN had initially given bank customers June 30, 2015 to register with banks and obtain their BVN. The CBN, however, extended the deadline to enable more customers get their BVN. The 20 million customers registered by banks means about 8.6 million are yet to obtain their BVN. Data by the Enhancing Financial Innovation Access, an organisation committed to financial inclusion, has indicated that there are about 28.6 million adult bank accounts in Nigeria. What inferences can we draw from the data supplied by NIBSS and NIMC?
The first inference is that CBN and banks are doing a better job of enrolling their targets than NIMC. The second inference is that there are more compelling reasons for Nigerians to enroll for the BVN than the national e-ID. The third is that deposit banks have more enrolment points than NIMC.
Based on this statistics, I expect NIMC to have entered into strategic engagements with the banks and collaborate on several areas. Without prejudice to President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives that all biometric databases in the country must be linked together, I am of the opinion that NIMC and banks must work together beyond the synchronizations of biometric data after all banks are not government agencies and as such the presidential directives cannot affect them.
Whatever the arrangement they finally come up with, NIMC should be able to piggyback on the banks’ extensive branch network across the country to complete its e-ID enrolment.
What I am saying is that Nigerians should be able to apply for their e-ID cards at the NIMC desks or kiosks in their nearest banks. Citizens should be able to submit their application as well as their biometric data via the kiosk at the bank branches. This includes taking a biometric photograph, submitting automated fingerprints and electronic signatures.
With a population of 167 million people, Nigeria’s 21 banks had 5,624 branches as at August 2012. NIMC should ride on these branches to fast track the enrolment.