Nigeria and Biometric Registration,The 2015 Experience

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Following an April 2014 statistical "rebasing" exercise, Nigeria has emerged as Africa's fastest technology advancing country. The Nigerian general election of 2015 was the 5th quadrennial election to be held since the end of military rule in 1999. The former president, Goodluck Jonathan sought his second and final term. The elections were first scheduled to be held on 14 February 2015. However, the electoral commission postponed it by six weeks to 28 March, mainly due to the poor distribution of Permanent Voter Cards, and also to curb ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in certain north-eastern states. The election was extended to 29 March due to delays and technical problems with the biometric card readers. It was the most expensive election ever to be held on the African continent. Prior to the election date, Nigerians came out en-masse for the registration and for their biometric data to be captured by the newly introduced card reader; but despite the rigorous registration process and time consumed, peoples franchise to a large extent  were dined by the card reader machine.
Consequently, as Nigerians was trying to recover from the card-reader dilemma, the BVN was enforced with full force. BVN (Bank Verification Number) was introduced by the CBN and was launched February 14 last year (2014). It is the registration of customers in the financial system using biometric technology. The objective of the BVN initiative they said is to protect bank customers, reduce fraud and further strengthen the Nigerian banking system. As people were busy hoping for the programme to die a natural death, series of deadline were outlined by the apex bank. In order to beat the June 30 initial deadline banks customers had trooped to their branches to enrol for the BVN. “It has come to our notice that the BVN registration has elicited tremendous interest from the Nigerian banks’ customers who crowded the bank halls, in order to beat deadline; little did they know that the BVN is meant to be “linked” to all their accounts which calls for the second phase of the BVN Wahala.  In view of the foregoing, it has become imperative for the bank to extend the timeline for all bank customers to have the BVN. The deadline for enrolment was extended from June 30, 2015 to October 31, 2015. The extension was expected to facilitate a smooth completion of the registration exercise.  Moreover there was mass data error with regards to age between the customer’s account details and the BVN details; which adversely affected the customers. Furthermore, there is need to give Nigerian banks’ customers in diasporas, ample time to enrol on the programme because while we are here in Naija experiencing the hurdles they too was getting their own fair share of the BVN Wahala. Some Nigeria banks’ customers in diasporas complained that they were being charged $45 & £30 to register customers abroad; moreover some had to travel from Florida and Los Angeles in order to do BVN in New York.
 Also just as people were waking up from the BVN wahala; some people were greeted with the Nigeria Communication Commission deadline to all network providers in Nigeria. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in March 28, 2011, officially flagged off the registration of all subscriber identity module (SIM) cards in Nigeria so it could have credible data base of phone users. The registration of existing SIM cards officially ended in January 2012, with a total of 110 million lines captured in the exercise. Network operators are however to continue to register new SIM cards. The regulatory body said as at May 2015, active telephone lines in the nation stood at 146,561,744. It pointed out that some of these lines were not properly registered and could be among those being utilised by insurgents and miscreants to perpetuate various degrees of crimes in the society.
The NCC on August 18, 2015 said that “about 38.78 million lines were either unregistered or improperly registered. In view of this the Nigeria Communication Commission given the mandate to either block or barre customers whose Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) details is not properly captured on the biometric database, which calls for another biometric registration wahala. More than 10.7 million have been blocked by the NCC, “about 38.78 million SIM cards found to be defective regarding improper registration details including poor finger prints, absence of facial information and other biometric issues, according to NCC,  the operators, after strict monitoring by the commission, have barred  about 10.7 million SIMs”.But  out of the four major network providers in Nigeria MTN seems to be the only people on the hot-sit of the NCC deadline. Which have adversely affected their customers and many are porting to other network provider either because of loss suffered and junk messages being sent by the service provider or for  some other reasons best kwon to the customers.  Following the series of deactivation of customers people have continued to troop into various network providers offices to either verify their registration or perform a new biometric registration in order to continue to be in-touch with their loved ones or to resuscitate the lifeline of their daily business which is based on constant communication with their own valued customers.
But before we forget so easily, Nigerian should also know that another deadline is fast approaching which is the January 6th 2015 deadline for every Nigerian that is 18 year and above to obtain his/her own National Identity card,which was initially shifted from September 1st 2015. Our amiable President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, August 25th,2015   in Abuja, got registered by the officials of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), to enable him to obtain his national identity card. The National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007, the NIMC has the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria, register persons covered by the Act, assign a Unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those registered individuals, and to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in Nigeria. According to director Nimc Chris Onyemenam, “our mandate is to provide an assured identity system in Nigeria through the concept of enrol once and be identified for life.” He also said that additional enrolment centers will be opened in all the local governments’ area of the federation; but currently some of the existing centers is either facing power or network problem which have made them to remain redundant at the moment.  
However let’s keep our finger crust with a strong believe that Nigeria and Nigerians will pass through this biometric stage of our dear country Nigeria. Notwithstanding calls from elite Nigerians for the harmonization and integration of Nigeria database (as its being done in other developed world) in order to save Nigerians from the hurdles of biometric registration.

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