There are concerns about the potential compromise of Nigeria’s national database should the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) proceed with the recently launched Self-Service application for National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment.
NIMC and the Ministry of Interior had on September 16 launched the Self-Service application supposedly to ensure seamless National Identity Number (NIN) enrollment for Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Techeconomy’s investigation shows that the deployment of the NIMC self-serve solution has moved into user acceptance testing (UAT) and can be deployed at any moment, starting with the diaspora.
Why NIMC introduced Self-Service application
Mr Dayo Bankole, the Chief Executive Officer of Banksforte Technology Limited, who is driving the project, while speaking with journalists in Abuja, rated the Self-Service application by NIMC as a milestone that will transform the Commission.
According to Bankole, the application has four self-service modules: self-service NIN enrollment, modification of data and validation, and digital identity generation.
The expert pointed out that the application, which is accessible from anywhere in the World, would enable Nigerians in the Diaspora to self-enroll for NIN from the comfort of their homes, modify, validate, and obtain digital Identity without the need to travel back to Nigeria. The CEO said the application would be available on Google Play Store and IOS App Store once rolled out.
Innovation is a welcomed idea, but in this day and age we must be careful of the kind of technology we introduce; this practice is not the world’s best practice as no country uses a publicly available self-service solution to send data to the country’s database, Nigeria is not ripe enough for this kind of technology as it will significantly compromise our database and hence our national integrity.
Due to the high rate of terrorism, insecurity, etc., Nigeria cannot afford our database to be flooded with non-Nigerians’ information, giving terrorists access to our national database. We cannot verify or authenticate those who claim to be Nigerians using the self-service solution. The risks sure outweigh the benefits.
Most governments have a way to identify citizens. For example, in the United States, the Social Security Number is the de facto national ID required for various purposes like employment, banking, credit applications, retirement, and disability benefits.
As advanced as Americans are in technology, they do not use self-service solutions to send data to the database; an approved organization must authenticate you.
In China, citizens aged 16 and up apply for a resident identity card, but the application must be in person for authentication.
India has created the world’s most extensive biometric ID system, and NIMC’s model is like India’s.
In December, the Unique Identification Authority of India announced that 1.3 billion people, or roughly 99% of Indian adults, were enrolled in Aadhaar.
As extensive as the Aadhaar is in India and as vast as the country is, the enrolment process is still in-person and includes visiting an Enrolment Centre, filling out the enrolment form, getting demographic and biometric data captured, submitting proof of Identity and address documents before collecting acknowledgment slip containing Enrolment ID).
The importance of authenticating an applicant cannot be over-emphasized. Hence, the world’s best practice for enrolment into a country database is by visiting an authorized enrolment center to authenticate the applicant.
While NIMC under the leadership of Engineer Abisoye Coker-Odusote, the Acting Director General, deserves a commendation for establishing the framework for the enrolment of Nigerians within and outside the country and for enrolling over 100 million Nigerians in its database, the idea of a self-service solution is fraught with dangers that could undermine its lofty achievements and worse, undermine the integrity of the national identity database.
First, the questions NIMC and Barnksforte Technologies Limited must address stem squarely from the features of the application that grant an applicant the window to enroll, modify, validate, and obtain digital Identity, with or without any interface with NIMC or its credible partners.
When the app is finally available on Google Play Store, does it mean anyone can download it, enroll, modify, validate, and obtain Nigeria’s digital Identity without checks and balances?
If this isn’t addressed already, then the national database is on the verge of compromise because as the country battles insecurity, we were told that the rotten eggs can be fished out through NIN.
This is 2023, and hackers can do a lot of damage. While we applaud the efforts at improving the status quo, we should point out the dangers of potentially allowing Boko Haram members or other bad actors to be able to modify his or her data and use a dead people profile to register!
Secondly, technology must be given a chance in the affairs of identity management, but cautiously.
NIMC must disclose the outcome of the beta testing of the application as proof of its watertight security and uncompromising features.
To avoid the irreparable danger this solution might pose to the integrity of the national database, we believe NIMC should first conclude the process of revalidation of their existing Front-End Partners (FEPs) in the diaspora and work with them as the go-between of Nigerian Citizens in the diaspora and the NIMC server.
All parties must be in sync and understand how the self-serve solution works.
We don’t want NIMC to destroy all the progress made in the past few years, and we recommend a thorough overview of this self-service idea.
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