President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as well as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to harmonise the various biometric projects, including other ongoing projects in other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with the e-ID card scheme.
In the same vein, he told Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to ensure immediate compliance with the directive. “The regime of duplication of biometric data bases must now have to give way to harmonization and unification with the e-ID scheme, which shall be the primary data base” he said.
Speaking during the launch of National Identity (e-ID) Card in Abuja, Jonathan condemned the proliferation and duplication of efforts saying that it was neither cost effective, nor security-smart.
According to him, it was important to remove obstacles that may impede the NIMC from the discharge of its constitutional functions and statutory obligations.
He enjoined NIMC to focus its energy on ensuring that the remaining two components of the NIMC roll out – Identity Authentication and Verification and the Alignment and in particular, Switching Over by the MDAs through the harmonization and integration framework – are deployed without fail.
On the logistics and speed of data collection, he insisted that it must be improved upon as this will reduce the justifications given by MDAs, as reasons for duplicated biometric options.
The President, however, expressed hope that the harmonisation programme will help to achieve vital data integrity, especially, by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) while urging MDAs to switch or at least align their existing infrastructure, as data collection agents to the NIMC System.
“This should be the primary reason for expediting the harmonization programme, more so, as this would conserve government’s scarce resources for significant national benefits,” he said.
To this effect, the president said that the board of NIMC must act decisively to increase investor confidence, in a very professional way, so that the various opportunities can be rapidly identified and exploited for the good of our economy.
He commended President Obasanjo who, signed the NIMC Act into law during his tenure. “Even though the programme dragged for sometime, but today it is a good story we are telling the world.
I’m particularly pleased about NIMC because a number of things we are supposed to do well as a nation, we are not doing well.
The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Finance Minister did mention about our commitment to see how ordinary Nigerians benefit in a number of ways. But how do you know the people to benefit when we don’t have statistics of our people. And that is why we are advising that every Nigerian must get this card.
If you take the issue of subsidy on transport, what we do is subsidising hydrocarbon. It does not go to the ordinary people. Government spends a huge sum of money – hundreds of billions of naira every year in the budget.
Ask the National Assembly. Sometimes it is controversial subsidising kerosene. Yet it is going very high in the market.
We are thinking about how do we subsidise transport of the person going to school, the person going to the market, the person moving from Lagos to Enugu or Lagos to Kano. Not paying subsidy that 60 per cent of that will be smuggled out of the country. And those who make the money will come and use that money to induce the people suffering to even riot against government.
When the issue of the crisis in the north came up, some people came up with the idea of how we could replicate amnesty programme in the Niger Delta in the North. And I said, look, we must not wait for people to carry arms against the state before we help them. I said let us as a government identify those without jobs. I asked those in finance to see our resources and how we can accommodate them. Not to wait for youths to carry weapons against the state in the south east, south south, north east before you can think of how to address their needs. I then asked the then Minister of National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman, to come up with a blueprint because we must know the figures, we must know what we have. We cannot venture into what we cannot conclude. It is difficult because we don’t know ourselves, and up to this time is still paper work” he said.
Earlier, the Director General of NIMC, Barrister Chris Onyemenam said that the new national e-ID card was a fallout of several attempts to identify Nigerians. After several false starts , on October 17, 2013, the Federal Government launched the National Identity Number (NIM). This also did not solve the problem. Consequently, they came up with the National e-ID Card which can be used for bank transaction, pension payment, insurance transaction.
The Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the government is targeting a social programme but the dream has not been achieved because of identity issue.
She said that with the e-ID card, the special subsidy planned by the government would be easy.