The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, came under fire a few weeks ago when he suggested that the Bank Verification Number (BVN) is illegal and will have to be replaced with the newly hyped National Identification Number (NIN).
This new announcement is already creating topics debating why the BVN has to be erased for the NIN to survive. One of the topics also being perused by thoughtful Nigerians is why the government cannot harmonise and link together all of the citizen bio-data in the custody of government to avoid incessant data capturing.
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Several attempts at harmonising and linking the various databases where Nigerians have their bio-data have proved abortive over the years. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which is the agency tasked with ensuring that the identity of Nigerians is updated, has been struggling with this important mandate for too long. Yet, the recent hint by the communications may only worsen matters rather than solve the problem of having a unified identity system for Nigerians.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), as a federal agency, has its own database system used to organise and identify drivers on Nigerian roads. Still, it is not fully linked to the system at NIMC yet. The BVN and the NIN are databases housing specific information of users. These independent databases were built by professionals without a plan to integrate them as a system to help advance the course of the nation and its people. Interestingly, the BVN has only been used previously to harmonise the various bank accounts while the NIN was being used to identify who the citizens of Nigeria are actually.
It was only recently during the linking of mobile lines to NIN that it was revealed about 40 million Nigerians would be able to get their NIN without necessarily going to the NIMC registration centres. Users having a BVN were able to get a NIN virtually by just dialling a code on their mobile lines. This was a great development until the minister made the latest announcement that BVNs are illegal.
The individual registration that Nigerians are having to do to get about their daily lives is getting ridiculous with all of these duplicities and bureaucracy. In fact, the multiplicity of databases negatively affects the Ease of Doing business index in Nigeria due to these bureaucratic bottlenecks instituted by Nigerian agencies, departments and parastatals.
With just one registration, Nigerians should have the opportunity to create a profile with any institution across the country. Anyone with a BVN should not have to do a fresh data capturing for a driver’s license or a national identity card. Anyone with any of the above-listed identity numbers and bio-data systems should be able to vote freely after verifying their authenticity during elections.
Paying attention to harmonising and bringing together these database systems will definitely increase the quality of life of Nigerians while also increasing government efficiency.
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As of December 2020 and early January, many Nigerians groaned under the undue pressure of trying to link their mobile phone lines to their NIN. Due to the huge deluge of Nigerians who do not have NIN prior, the NIMC registration centres where NIN registration is being done became oversaturated as the excessive crowds could not be registered within the specified deadline. Many avoided the registration centres due to concerns of contracting COVID-19.
To inspire a truly digital economy, what the minister and the professionals at the various ministries, agencies need to embark upon is creating a seamless interaction between all of these databases.
It is high time the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy got more innovative.
Featured image source: Guardian NG
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