FG’s three new national ID cards

THE Federal Government is planning to launch three new national identity cards in May. The target, it says, is to provide for about 104 million citizens throughout the country. According to the Technical Adviser, Media, and Communications to the Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Ayodele Babalola, the new cards are a bank-enabled National ID card, social intervention card, and an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card. Babalola added that the presidency had not yet granted approval for the cards. He, however, noted that when it finally does, Nigerians would have access to them in one or two months. He said: “We expect the bank-enabled National ID to meet the needs of the middle and upper segments who typically use banks within the next one or two months after the launch. Also, activation of the National Safety Net Card to meet the urgent needs for authentication and a secure platform for government services such as palliatives within the next one or two months . The focus will be on the 25 million vulnerable Nigerians funded by the current government intervention programmes.”

Since this pronouncement, Nigerians have expressed their revulsion at the consistency with which the government takes them for granted, unfolding schemes that have little bearing on their lives. Although national identification is an important issue, the duplication or multiplicity of cards makes the whole exercise a provocation. Already, Nigerians have a suffusion of cards that fall within the province of national identification documents. They have an existing national identity card, NIN, BVN, drivers’ license, voter card, international passport and many more. Each of these costs time, energy and money. Besides, the GSM companies have the biometrics of their users, taken after a laborious process that the people have not ceased complaining about. As a matter of fact, obtaining the current national identity card is literally hellish for most Nigerians who have to queue up for hours under the rain and in the sun as they undergo manual registration at the various registration centres, paying the various sums of money charged by the operators.

Beyond the rhetoric purveyed by government agencies, the motivation for rolling out multiple cards seems to be money and more money. The point should be borne in mind that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was not set up as a revenue-generating agency. The constant fleecing of Nigerians by the agencies of the Federal Government must stop. These agencies have lost sight of the articles of their formation and have become addicted to the idea of subjecting Nigerians to anguish under the guise of fighting insecurity through technology. This is, we dare say, a terrible onslaught on a populace consistently traumatised by bad leadership, and lacking even the most basic of social amenities. Nigerians are lined up like serfs and told to obtain “new” cards that prove to be virtually useless when the issues for which they were rolled out actually arise.

We think that rather than embark on another energy-sapping exercise of registering for new national identity cards, the existing ones should be harmonised. The government claims that the about-to-be-launched identity cards will be more sophisticated and all-encompassing, with digital and virtual versions. It also claims that they will be equipped with payment capability for all types of social and financial services. Well, Nigerians have enough cards already, and the government should be able to tell Nigerians when enough will be enough on this issue of cards. It must be ready to let Nigerians know the efforts it is putting in place to stem the multiplicity of identity cards. The beauty of this kind of identity scheme should lie in the cards’ periodic upgrade and not entirely new ones over and over again. NIMC should simply have scheduled the existing national identity card for an upgrade, equipping it with all the innovations it claims will be contained in the proposed new cards. This would have made more sense, reducing the fear of government gimmickry and insensitivity to the people’s plight.