On the website of the National Identity Management Commission, a banner advert displays the following message: “Wherever I go around Nigeria, around the world, people can verify that I am who I say I am.” Then follows this payoff line: “Welcome to the digital identity age.”
Let me quote further from the NIMC website: “Digital Identity simply put refers to the means of electronically authenticating or verifying the identity of an individual or entity (e.g. businesses, agencies, organizations, etc.). This usually involves identifying the person or entity over a secure Internet connection thereby granting a wider, worldwide reach to users of services reliant on verified identity.
“This is what makes the use of POS devices, ATMs, online transactions, and so on, possible today. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is the organization mandated with providing Nigerian citizens and legal residents within the country, the means of authenticating and verifying their identities nationally and internationally when engaging in all sorts of transactions be it financial, social, legal, insurance-related, travelling, educational, and many more.
“The National Identity Database maintained and kept secure by NIMC provides the central storage point for identity data which all individuals, businesses, government agencies, financial institutions and organizations link to for identity authentication and verification services during their transactions.
For so many individuals and entities to get authorized, secure access to such an identity service from anywhere around Nigeria and the world, a digital system is required thereby providing the secure link to the National Identity Database.
“The evolution of current Digital/Information Age has led to a change in many of the ways we live our lives today, not just in the field of identity. The rise of the Internet and proliferation of mobile devices has helped boost this change mostly for the better. Today, you can sit at home and shop online using your credit or debit card, Paypal, Bitcoins or other digital currencies. The act of identification has also been affected by the Digital Age. Where once you could identify yourself or another person only with a paper certificate, then an ID card, today you can identify anyone even more accurately using their digitally captured biometric (fingerprints, retina scans, facial capture, height, etc.) and demographic (age, address, gender, etc.) details from anywhere you are in the world using identification numbers, verified online shopping IDs, electronic chips, mobile devices and even trusted social media profiles.
The National Identification Number (NIN) which ties all individual’s biometric and demographic identity data to one secure, digitally accessible number on the National Identity Database enables NIMC to provide secure digital identity services across Nigeria and beyond.”
To actualize its mandate, the NIMC began enrolling Nigerians and other legal residents in the country some years ago. But the enrollment has been faced with several man-made bottlenecks, some of which were deliberately created to facilitate execution of the corrupt, dark agenda of some workers of the organization at the stage of enrollment and printing out of the slip that contains the NIN, which would serve as temporary identity card pending the issuance of e-ID card embedded with a microchip.
For instance, I enrolled in 2018. Several efforts to obtain the printout containing the NIN were unsuccessful. It was always difficult to make headway at the nearest NIMC office. Meanwhile, not having the NIN prevented me from completing vital documentation needed by my pension administrator. In frustration, I decided to cry out through the Voice of the Nation, this newspaper, to NIMC about my plight and other people similarly affected. In the course of writing my original piece, I visited the website of NIMC and made a pleasant discovery. As Omoniyi Salaudeen, my colleague from Osun State would say, “The thing I dey look for in Sokoto dey for my shokoto.”
On the NIMC website I found this information: “If you cannot remember your NIN, visit any NIMC office near you for assistance or use the *346# SMS phone service.”
I picked up my phone and dialed the USSD code. Instantly, my NIN, which I had been waiting to receive for almost two years, appeared like magic on the phone screen. You can imagine my joy. That is why the NIMC should begin advertising the USSD code, to educate Nigerians on how to obtain the NIN with their phones and thereby stop laying curses on the officials of NIMC, who they accuse of frustrating enrolment and printing of NIN slips.
The ball, as it is said, is now in the court of the Director General of the NIMC, Engr. Aliyu A. Aziz, to get the commission to mount a public enlightenment campaign on this simple and convenient way of obtaining the NIN.
• Enyeribe Ejiogu, News Editor, Sunday Sun, wrote from Lagos