IT is an understatement to say that vital registration is a necessity for national development. No nation can develop without human statistics which vital registration provides. These include a functional register of births, deaths, migration and residency. An important item on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations demands that nations provide legal identity for all including birth registration by the year 2030.
THERE is no gainsaying the fact that one major problem confronting this country is the dearth of vital registration. The Nigerian State has over the years been experimenting with vital registration with minimal success until recently. This is because previous identity cards which are the products of national registration were neither permanent nor computerized with a functional data base networked across the country. Thus, the current registration which is permanent and centralized is a welcome development. This new identity card comes with a security pin number known as National Identification Number (NIN), which is customized to the holder and it can be used to trace the real identity of the holder including his vital records.
AT the last count, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), had successfully registered 33, 690, 305 Nigerians. The breakdown of this figure, according to the NIMC Director-General, MrAliyu Aziz, shows that 33, 284, 309 are adults while 405, 996 are children. The figures released on January 11, 2019 further revealed that as at January 10, 2019, 9.1million (precisely 9,182, 453) had registered from the South-West states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo , Osun and Oyo making the zone to top the list. This was followed by the North-West states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara with an enrolment figure of 5, 984, 979.
THE South-South states of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers came third with a total of 4, 869, 487 closely followed by the North-Central states comprising Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau with an enrolment figure of 4, 578, 856. Coming behind were the North-East and South-East zones. While the North-East states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe recorded 3,727,023 enrolments, South-East states comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo recorded the least enrolment with a total figure of 3,686,789.
FURTHER analysis shows that Lagos tops the list of states with highest number of enrolments of 4.2 million followed by Kaduna with 1.8million while Ebonyi came last with a total figure of 353, 700. Kano, Anambra, Oyo, Ogun, Delta and Rivers states had also registered at least a million residents.
IT is instructive to note that if the Federal Government policy on the compulsory registration which came to effect from January 1, 2019 is fully implemented, no one can transact any business with government without the unique national identity card number.
ALSO, children would not be allowed to register in any school in Nigeria whether public or private without enrolling and obtaining the unique identity card number or their parents doing so. With this, it is clear and unambiguous that in due course, Nigerians who fail to register would find it difficult to operate as full citizens in their homeland.
HOWEVER, the cumbersome nature of the process of registration is worrisome. Nigerians complain about the inability of the National Identity Management Commission officials to collect and process individual’s data which include bio data, photographs and finger prints at a relatively short period. Many had visited the NIMC offices and designated registration centers scores of time to repeat the process with a frustrating response of “come back next time” from the officials.
THIS, no doubt, has cast aspersions on the capacity and readiness of NIMC for this all important exercise. In contrast, such registration is seamless and taken for granted in other climes. The NIMC should fashion out a mechanism to ease the registration process if it must live up to its constitutional role.
ANOTHER problem this country is grappling with is the issue of multiple registrations. This includes those done by the National Population Commission, banks, employers and others. Data of individuals on these portals appear the same which makes it a duplication of efforts to start registration with these bodies, including NIMC, all over. Data from these sources should be harmonized and networked into a central data base to be easily accessed by any authority in need of such at the punch of the computer using the individual’s National Identification Number (NIN). This makes it almost impossible for any citizen to falsify records in order to undermine the system.
THE current multiple registration system is open to manipulation. For instance a vital record of an individual, say birth date, is captured differently by local government, National Population Commission, banks, employer, and NIMC carrying different dates and years as they are meant for different purposes best known to the individual who falsely supplies such.
THIS criminal tendency which is living with us can only be eliminated if a national registration captures all the records of an individual submitted at the central data base networked across the country and can be accessed at the click on the individual’s unique identification number which carries security features.
BEYOND identity card registration, government should make other vital registrations a priority. All births and deaths should be adequately registered and networked to a central data base system for effective planning and development. Also, registration of migration-inflow and outflow of other nationals to the countr-must be made functional.
IF these are done, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics can easily and correctly predict our population without necessarily relying on census figures which are often politicized and manipulated to achieve certain ends. Part of the economic benefit of efficient planning system is that it will save us billions of naira the country expends on census exercise and this could be ploughed back into productive sectors to boost infrastructure and employment.
THE NIMC should therefore step up its Digital Identity Ecosystem with a framework to carrying out enrolment of Nigerians and legal residents into the National Identity Database (NIDB). This will no doubt give Nigeria a credible and robust identity management system.
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