With the deployment of over 1,500 National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment outlets by Mobile Number Operators (MNOs), Professor Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) believes the number of enrolments will increase significantly.
Meanwhile, over the years the call for a harmonised data for citizens identification in Nigeria has been a front burner issue, and for many, credibility in a national identity database is key for the country’s overall development.
TechEconomy.ng had reported that Nigeria’s NIN database surpassed 64.4 million in September 2021.
NCC, the regulator of the country’s telecommunications sector believes that a robust Identity Management System with quality data is key for every emerging economy, therefore Nigeria, and by extension Africa, must leverage on its digital identity as a reliable tool for socio-economic development and accelerated growth of its digital economy.
Prof. Danbatta made these submissions at a webinar organised by the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) recently.
Speaking as the Chief Host and delivering a speech on Citizens Identity Management in a Digital Economy: The Role of Telecommunications Service Providers, Danbatta noted that the Federal Government prioritized the need to have a single national identity system for all citizens, in order to carry out its mandate in social and economic development, law enforcement, intelligence and political development.
“As we are aware, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020 – 2030) launched in December 2019, was developed to reposition the Nigerian Economy in order to unlock the many opportunities that digital technologies provide towards the diversification of the Nigerian economy and to transform Nigeria into a leading global digital economy”.
He added that, while Mobile devices and adequate digital infrastructure (i.e. broadband deployment etc.) play an important role in the development of any digital economy, there is no gainsaying that the development of a credible national identity database is crucial to the actualization of a robust digital economy.
“In more developed nations where robust digital ecosystems already exist, digital identity has been adopted as a tool for transformation of governance and service delivery in areas such as: transportation, financial inclusion, immigration, healthcare, social safety nets, agriculture, security etc.”
The EVC said the national identity database has gradually grown to over 63 million citizens as at August 2021, representing a meagre 29.7% of the Nigerian Population since commencement of the National Identity Number (NIN) enrolment exercise in February 2012 by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
“This was accomplished over a period spanning eight (8) years through the rollout of NIMC enrolment centres nationwide, albeit with limited coverage, harmonization of Identity Schemes across different sector agencies and more recently leveraging the different sectors of the economy to drive NIN enrolment; through the adoption of NIN as a requirement for citizens to access essential services such as financial services, driver’s license, International Passport and most recently telecommunications services”.
Role of MNOs in National Identity Management drive
The role of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the National Identity Management drive cannot be overemphasize.
This, according to Danbatta is because of the ability to reach the majority of individuals due to their vast networks/coverage of the landscape.
“It is said that for any digital identity framework or ecosystem to succeed, it must be available and accessible to as many individuals as possible. There is therefore a global recognition of the increasing importance of Mobile Telephony as a driver/enabler for digital identity programmes especially in emerging countries such as ours”.
“In the case of Nigeria, with a subscriber base of approximately 187 million and one of the largest databases holding the digital identity of Nigerians, the telecommunications industry is arguably the most critical stakeholder in the development of a credible national database in the Digital Economy Ecosystem”.
“This along with other security considerations informed the decision of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami to launch the Revised National Identity Policy for SIM Registration mandating the linkage of all active SIMs to the National Identity Number (NIN) of the respective telecommunications subscribers. By so doing, all eligible persons subscribed to telecoms services will be required to enroll for NIN if they are yet to do so”.
Danbatta noted that the NIN Policy for SIM Registration is perhaps the most effective driver of NIN enrolment and the development of a credible digital identity database.
“For ease of citizen enrolment and linkage of SIM to NIN, the Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy graciously approved that MNOs be granted NIN enrolment licenses by NIMC which paved the way for MNOs to engage in direct enrolment of subscribers for NIN at their customer service centres”.
This, he added has led to the deployment of over 1,500 NIN enrolment outlets by MNOs, with over 1 million citizens enrolled directly at MNO service centres as at date.