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COVID-19: Pandemic Has Opened a Pandora’s Box Says Engr. Aziz

The Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Engr. Aliyu Aziz said the novel COVID-19 pandemic has opened a Pandora’s Box, bringing unexpected troubles to the entire world, disrupting all plans and projections.

Engr. Aziz made this remark at a three-day Africa Tech Leaders Webinar Series on COVID-19 organised by Digital Jewels Limited. The Webinar series drew high-level participants from the public sector in Africa- Nigeria, Ghana, and Rwanda where the Engr. Aziz was one of the representatives from Nigeria.

While discussing public sector outlook on the COVID-19 pandemic, Engr. Aziz emphasised that the pandemic has presented an opportunity for the Nigerian and African public sector to embrace technology and make swift decisions to effect change to suit the current reality. He, therefore, called on Africa countries to be innovative and, in particular, take digital identity seriously to navigate the resultant impacts and disruptions, which the COVID-19 pandemic is throwing up.

Answering a question on the huge disparity in technology adoption between the private and public sectors in Nigeria, the NIMC CEO said that the public sector has not quite adopted technology and, there is the need for change management. In his words, ”the slow adoption can be attributed to factors such as problem definition, policy formulation, political will, the disparity in remuneration, population size, and too many cooks”. He shed light on what the Commission is doing to scale up National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment.

According to Engr. Aziz, NIMC currently has 42 million unique records in the National Identity Database (NIDB) and has the mandate of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to enrol all Nigerians and foreign legal residents in the next three to five years through the ecosystem approach, with funding of $433 million from the World Bank, Agence Francaise de Développement (AfD), and the European Union. On why Bank Verification Number (BVN) and not the National Identification Number (NIN) is used for the administration of the COVID-19 palliatives, he said: “If you’re doing anything about payments you can go through BVN. But NIN is the foundational Identity.

BVN and the NIN follow the same standard. When there’s a pandemic, the government can readily use what’s available.” The DG also said that there is an ongoing harmonization of BVN with NIN, out of which 14 Million has been processed. Engr. Aziz noted that the Commission adopts the global best practices in data management. The NIMC ISO certification in 2014, and recent recertification in 2020 is a confirmation of the Commission’s continuous efforts at protecting its data, he added. “The process of capturing and storing the data is secured and there are data protection guidelines and a data protection Bill in the National Assembly awaiting passage’’, the DG said.