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Stakeholders underscore role of telecom service providers in identity management

NIN penetration currently stands at 29.7% of the population, with deployment of the Android Enrolment Solution by NIMC, “we expect rapid growth of the MNO NIN enrolment centres which will translate to exponential growth in NIN enrollments”

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Identity Management

Last year, when the Federal Government made the linkage of National Identity Numbers (NIN) to SIM Cards compulsory, there was uproar. Nigerians complained due to inconveniences and fear of data being breached.

But today, the economy has started reaping the positive sides of this which is also a reflection of the impact of collective efforts of critical stakeholders like the telecommunication service providers in enabling seamless registrations and integration, respectively.

Stakeholders highlighted these today during a webinar themed: “Citizen Identity Management in a Digital Economy”, organized by the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) to enlighten the public about the role of the telecommunications sector in the digital economy.

Prof Isa Pantami, the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, who spoke through Engr Aziz Aliyu, director general, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), he said that the success recorded with the SIM-NIN integration prompted the need to make the public aware of the importance of proper identity management and role of telecom service providers and the citizens in general.

Pantami DT-TWG

Prof. Isa Pantami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy

According to the Minister, broadband is even the bedrock of the digital economy.

He however, stated that Nigeria lacks a proper addressing system and a backlog of citizens are yet to be registered. Although the government came up with a road map of the role of NCC and telecoms, it hasn’t been very effective.

“Over 150 countries now require identification for the purchase of SIM Cards. Data efficiency and a richer customer profile are required to prompt loyal and stronger relationships, ultimately simplifying access to services.

“We believe that with broadband, smartphones, virtual access and digital identity, there will be no limit for us in this market,” Pantami said.

He added that as the economy is going digital, there are huge opportunities that should be grabbed without limit.

“Digital transformation has been adopted in all sectors including transportation, education, financial inclusion and other sectors.

“Nigeria needs to leverage this digital transformation as a reliable tool for sustainable development across the country.

“Identity management goes beyond the figures. We need to manage it in such a way that cybercriminals will be totally shut out.

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Danbatta

Prof Umar Danbatta, EVC of NCC

In his keynote address, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, said that the NIN Policy for SIM Registration is perhaps the most effective driver of the NIN enrolment and the development of a credible digital identity management.

Still on the identity management, the EVC said: “It may interest us to note that 37% of NIN enrolments recorded during the 8 years since NIN enrolment commenced was accomplished by leveraging the telecommunications industry.

“Since commencement of the NIN policy in the telecommunication industry, we have witnessed tremendous growth in NIN enrolment from 40 million to over 63 million as at August 2021 (i.e. 23 million citizens enrolled in the past 9 months)”.

He said although NIN penetration currently stands at 29.7% of the population, with deployment of the Android Enrolment Solution by NIMC, “we expects rapid growth of the MNO NIN enrolment centres which will translate to exponential growth in NIN enrollments”, Danbatta said.

In his comment, Adejumoke Ajala, the CEO of NTEL pointed out:

“Before now, studies have shown that about 80% of Nigerians lack proper identification. This is why the government’s move on the NIN is important.”

While Andrew Enebeli, representative of Smile, emphasized that NIN is an integral part in enhancing the ease of doing business in Nigeria, Femi Adeluyi said that a contact enrollment system will be implemented by a contact lens that captures biometrics, fingerprints and facials will be introduced soon.

Speaking on the interception between identity and poverty, and how this can increase Nigeria’s GDP according to Ugonna, a representation of MTN, Agu Osoka commented that most people with identification are from metropolitan areas and NIMC is focused on ensuring access to the less privileged in rural areas, bringing them into the tax bracket and providing incentives for them.

According to Adeluyi, NIMC has involved both the public and private sectors so as to reach every nook and cranny of the nation. 203 partners, as well as vehicles, have been licensed and over a thousand enrollment centres have been put in place to ensure full coverage.

In terms of possible areas of improvement in the data capturing process, it was noted that infrastructure is a key area of consideration.

The industry requires a minimum of 150 devices to scale and achieve the desired goals. Funding to succeed and be present in rural areas, cost of training for individuals who are to use the devices, are issues to be considered.

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An adequate number of devices and consumer awareness to improve general knowledge is essential.

Ugonna from MTN said: “When telcos became very involved in the NIN process, it created a great extent of relief.”

“Across Nigeria, NIN penetration is still at 30%. Customers becoming advocates for the process would enhance penetration.”

Still on the challenges faced in the NIN process, since July this year, the number of days to generate the NIN has become slower, taking a longer time. NIN takes longer to be generated even when the dashboard shows success. And lastly, identity numbers are sometimes delayed.

Speaking on NIMC remaining the sole custodian of the NIN process, barrister Nwokoro said NIMC works with law and order. The body works with stakeholders — ensuring collaboration.

He suggested that NIMC should introduce Civil Society Organisations as they have practical ideas on how to sell the projects.

The deadline for the NIN registration has been given to be October 31, 2021, but just 64,000,000 people have successfully registered out of 187 million subscribers.

“There should be an extension of the timeline so the issues at the backend can be properly addressed to avoid negative backlash,” Nwokoro said.

In the angle of making citizens pay the sum of N15,000 for errors not made by them, Adeluyi said people who deliberately use different dates of birth for immigration, BVN and birth certificates are the ones affected.

“When people come to change their date of birth, N15,000 serves as administration fee, investigations and logistics fees.”

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But then, the question comes to mind: how do the officials know who made a mistake and who purposely put in wrong dates of birth?

Adeluyi said the NIMC website can easily identify records for BVN, Immigration and others. So the errors can be easily known.

In Ogunbanjo’s opinion, some states are currently shutting down telecom services due to social unrest, hence, there should be an extension of the deadline.

For the NIN process to be absolutely successful, the efforts of all stakeholders are highly essential.

ALTON, 5G, identity management

Gbenga Adebayo,  chairman of ALTON

Earlier, Engineer Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of ALTON, said that all hands must be on deck to ensure the target to achieve 65% NIN penetration in the coming months is attained in order to unlock the economic potentials of the digital economy.

​Joan Aimuengheuwa is a content writer who takes keen interest in the scopes of innovation among African startups. She thrives at meeting targets and expectations. Contact: [email protected]

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