The Board and Management of the National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC) has been formally presented with the New Salary Scale and improved conditions of service as approved by the Federal Executive Council.
The presentation which was made by Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) PhD, the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, on Thursday 2nd September 2021, marks the end of a ten year battle to turn the fortunes of the Commission around.
It could be recalled that the national identification numbers registration was suspended in January this year due to an indefinite strike embarked upon by a unit of the association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) who protested poor conditions of service.
Well, recipe has come their way! The Minister while thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for the support enjoyed by the sector, remarked that the previous unsuccessful attempts, though strong-willed, had resulted in disenchantment amongst the Commission’s workforce and loss of competent and highly skilled personnel to other organizations within and outside the country.
Pantami said, “I wish to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Mr President for the support given to me in driving the digital economy sector in Nigeria. Of reference is the mandate for me to supervise the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the approvals granted by Mr. President to ensure the population of the National Identity Database (NIDB) through the issuance of the National Identification Number (NIN) to registered persons, and to scale up the identification infrastructure.
“This is in addition to other unprecedented achievements recorded in securing the N25 billion Federal Executive Council Approval for upgrade and replacement of the NIMC Identity Infrastructure, and the implementation of novel initiatives that has increased the registration of persons to approximately 63 million records and counting on the NIDB. Worthy of note is the exponential increase in number of NIN enrolment centres and the automation of the enrolment process, where citizens and legal residents can begin enrolment process online, and download their new improved NIN slip or link their mobile numbers through the NIMC Mobile Application.
“This new approved condition of service and salary scale add to the NIMC personnel cost which was hitherto N5.04 billion to about N16.72 billion; a difference of N11.7 billion approximately. The Governing Board and Management of NIMC must ensure the judicious utilization of the approved funds as it is released in phases.
“One of the major challenges I came across in the supervision of the NIMC was the poor working condition of the staff. Since the inception of NIMC in 2007, multiple attempts have been made to change the narrative of the staff emoluments without success.
“Furthermore, the process towards achieving a functional condition of service for the Commission has been a long and daunting task that commenced since 2010. Successive administrations have made efforts to institute a statutory personnel policy that accentuates the NIMC’s enormous mandate and humongous service offering to the Nigerian people. These previous attempts, although strong-willed, were unsuccessful, leading to disenchantment amongst the Commission’s work force and loss of competent and highly skilled personnel to other agencies and organizations within and outside Nigeria (to countries such as Eritrea, United Kingdom and Canada).
Following the completion of transfer of the supervision of NIMC to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in October 2020, it became my responsibility to oversee and supervise the affairs of the Commission.
“My first task was to undertake a due diligence and a review process of the NIMC’s Human Capital needs and Technical Audit to ascertain their progress as well as challenges. It was at this point, after series of briefings from the Acting Chairman of the Governing Board, Director General, and top management; and meetings with representatives of the staff union, that I came to appreciate the dire necessity to reform and rejig the NIMC personnel architecture and the urgent need for intervention for upgrade of the National Identity Management System (NIMS)”.
Pantami said that he compared the NIMC Personnel Policy with other ICT parastatals under the Communications and Digital Economy Ministry and found out NIMC has the poorest Staff remuneration scheme with a highly sensitive mandate to deliver.
Thus, the staff renumeration existing then was not commensurate to the work delivery expected from the Commission.
“As you all may be aware, NIMC issues foundation identity, and at the foundation of a digitized economy is the critical role that Digital Identity plays which drives innovation in Banking, e-Commerce, Security, Governance, and Healthcare amongst others. For an evolving digital economy like ours, foundational identity will provide a universal multipurpose system capable of supporting the needs for an inclusive legal identity to ensure citizen’s access to social services and effective undertaking of their civic responsibilities”, the Minister said.
He added that the concept of Digital Identity is universal and the role it plays usually depends on a country and its institutional context. In some countries like Estonia, Republic of South Korea and Singapore that are considered as high-income countries, digital identity represents an upgrade from well-established, robust legacy physical identity systems that have worked reasonably well in the past.
“These Countries now boast of a multipurpose identity (foundational) scheme that covers their entire population and enables them to deliver public services more efficiently. Thus, through innovative approaches put in place to implement the Nigeria Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), and collaboration with all relevant public and private stakeholders, the ICT sector has seen unprecedented growth in the history of Nigeria contributing 17.92% to the total real GDP in Q2 2021, 20.54% higher than its contribution a year earlier and in the preceding quarter.
“The first step I took on the Personnel matter, was to advise the DG to set up a committee to review the existing policies at the time. Following the submission of a revised draft Condition of Service by the Committee, I scheduled arrays of consultations with relevant authorities, chiefly with the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, the Minister of Finance, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation amongst others.
“It was challenging rallying all and sundry to understand the exigency of the NIMC plight, and to bring everyone on-board considering the economic contractions witnessed in recent years, and of course, other pressing national projects contending for the available but lean resources.
“Through persistence, determination and most importantly, the support of Mr. President, we have arrived at where we are today. We now have a new Condition of Service and Salary Scale approved by Mr. President for the National Identity Management Commission. The new Condition of Service and Salary Scale increases with over 200% the total NIMC personnel cost, a significant departure from what is currently obtainable. We are indeed grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR for the approval and directives to implement the NIMC Condition of Service and Salary Scale”, he said.
Mallam Bello Ibrahim Gwandu, acting chairman of NIMC Governing Board, in his remarks at the ceremony, disclosed that “since 2010 we have been galvanizing efforts to ensure a positive change in the fortunes of NIMC’s workforce, but each time we take one successful step forward, there appears to be multiple gridlocks impeding our pace, All of these changed for the better upon the assumption of Professor Pantami as the supervisory Minister of NIMC. Evidence abounds of his persistent push and resilient resolve to accelerate us to this remarkable phase. We couldn’t have asked for a better Minister” he emphasized.
On his part, Engr Aliyu Abdullaziz, Director General of NIMC, while expressing the profound gratitude of the Commission in particular and the sector in general, noted that ‘Professor Pantami has achieved in less than a year, what previous administrations tried unsuccessfully to achieve in over a decade”.