The Federal Government has approved N30.066 billion for a new national identity management system, Mr. Chris Onyemenam, Director-General, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has said.
Onyemenam disclosed this at an interview session with newsmen on Sunday in Abuja.
“What government approved is N30.066 billion and the approval is intended to accelerate the rollout of the backend of the national identity management system.
“About five billion naira of that amount is already part of the 2011 appropriation act.”
Onyemenam said the remaining part of the money would be part of the 2012 and 2013 fiscal year budget proposal.
This, he said, would be subject to review, adding that it was a laudable project that would go a long way to sanitise the identification system.
He added that government’s approval of fund could be well taken to mean an interest in helping to implement a project that had transformational potential.
“President Goodluck Jonathan’s position as you know is transformation of the national economy for the citizenry both in terms of attitudinal disposition, employment creation, creation of economic opportunities and also creation of conducive environment,” he said
Explaining the new strategies of the commission, he said that the new cards to be issued would have facilities that could be verifiable unlike the former one that had no verification facility.
He added that the expected identity card would be like a smart card with a database that would be readable when slotted into any card acceptable device or reader.
“It (effective identification system) will be certainly be useful to the law enforcement agencies from the police to the intelligence community, the security agencies at large because at the, the common denominator is who are you, put differently, are you who you say you are.
“If you want to confirm some persons, our own responsibility is to provide an infrastructure that enables you within seconds of a request to obtain valid and reliable response as to the identity of the person that you have asked a confirmation for.”
“We are saying that this is a new way of confirming the identity of individuals that has not happened in the past.
“It is in this sense that we are saying there’s a shift away from the old way of doing things to the new way of doing things.
“ The new way of doing things is the new paradigm and that is what we mean when we say we are moving from a focus on identity card issuance to identity management system.”
Onyemenam assured of the commission’s commitment to ensuring effective identity management system in the country. Explaining more on the function of the system, Onyemenam said the system would enable security agencies to easily track down people with fingerprints that could be easily matched when crimes were committed.
In addition to doing this, the nation would be in a position to identify all its citizens as that should be one of the primary focuses of the scheme.
He expressed the hope that the new national identity card that would be issued by the commission would in no distant time serve as travel document for Nigerians, at least within the ECOWAS sub-region.
“There will come a time when your national identity card will become a travel document even in the ECOWAS region. We have anticipated already what will happen in the not too distant future. It is already the rule in Europe.”
On how the proposed new identity scheme would help in identifying illegal immigrants in the country, Onyemenam said once there was a system to assert the identity of citizens; it would also be easy identify foreigners impersonating Nigerians.
“As you introduce measures and processes for ensuring that citizens are legal residents and are able to assert their identities, you discover that over time, it will become a lot easier to stop non-Nigerians from claiming to be Nigerians.”
On what the country had lost for not having credible identification system, he explained the non- availability of a veritable identification scheme was an inhibiting factor in business and other transactional relationships between people.
Onyemenam told newsmen that one way of explaining the loss was the damage done by fraudsters otherwise known as 419ers to the image of the country and its national pride.
“One good way of explaining what we have lost as a nation by the absence of a core identity management infrastructure is to just reflect on the damage done by those we popularly refer to as 419 fraudsters and what they have done to our national pride and image, it’s been so bad.
“If you do not know who you are dealing with; that in itself is an inhibiting factor; it limits the extent to which you can go into transactional relationships; it means there is a limit to the kind of trust or business relations that you can go into.
“If you do not know your counterpart, you are not in a position to appreciate what you can benefit from the relationship. If you don’t know your counterpart, it is even difficult to estimate his capacities.”