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The International Relations Representative for Dermo Impex, the brain behind the newly introduced Basic Registry and Information System in Nigeria (BRISIN), Dr. Anthony Uwa in this interview with Senator Iroegbu, explains the expected benefits to Nigeria, saying access to good data is necessary in building a strong economy
What is BRISIN all about? Is it a product or service and what does it aim to achieve?
BRISIN is Basic Registry and Information Infrastructure. It is a national integrated data and information infrastructure. It is an all-encompassing data and information system that covers all aspect of our economy. It is vital for economic planning, security, employment generation, and industrial development and vital to other aspects of the economy you can think of. BRISIN is their foundation. The history of BRISIN dates back to 1998 when the first proposal was made until it was finally approved by the Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006. Prior to its final approval, successive helmsmen of the NPC since 1999 namely: Chief Philip Asiodu, Dr Magnus Kpakol, Professor Ojowu, Dr. Osita Ogbu and Senator Wali after intensive analysis and evaluation of the project and consultations with stakeholders acclaimed the project to be a fundamental infrastructure required for data capture and economic planning, which offers good potential for providing a panacea for addressing problems associated with gathering, storing , analyzing, retrieving and disseminating socio-economic statistics in Nigeria
Since BRISIN is that crucial, why is it coming at this point, and what makes it relevant?
The delay in the introduction of this project was for bureaucratic reasons. The delay has however robbed Nigerians of its crucial benefits all these while as solutions to the problems we are facing now including insecurity could have been found if BRISIN was in existence. So BRISIN today is more than vital to Nigeria for various reasons; without it you cannot fight insecurity, corruption, unemployment and all other social norms and vices and without it you cannot talk of good governance and development. Yes you can build everything, but that is not development. Frankly the president of Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan since he is enlightened, have decided that something crucial and critical like this, should come first.
For clarity and emphasis; is BRISIN an agency, a commission or a system. How does it operate, and in what format
BRISIN is neither an Agency nor a Commission, neither is it privately owned, but it is a system. The system a nation has is what drives its vision, economy, future, and its development. So it is a system that would allow Nigerians to know where they are going, where they are now and what they have lost all these years and what would have been achievable if they had BRISIN. For our Centenary, this is the foundation. BRISIN works in an umbrella format, foundational root source system, from the wards, local, state and federal government. When you are talking of a data based system without having such a foundation, it will be faulty. That is why BRISIN is so important for any development. It helps in basic data collection, population figures, identity management and crime fighting amongst others. BRISIN is an integrated data and information management system designed to capture and manage socio-economic data and information dissemination at each of the 8,791 Wards in the country.
The system is built on a robust ICT platform that enables the assemblage and use of statistical information on demographic and individual characteristics including family compositions, internal migration, and employment status, agricultural and commercial activities. It is a system that facilitates and guarantees regular and continuous assessment and management of the economy at the national and sub-national levels, keeps crimes under check, creates jobs, prevents corruption and sharp practices, assists in revenue collection, prevent tax evasion, and assists in tracking macro economic data for development.
BRISIN is built on a database of socio-economic information of all citizens and residents and their economic activities and enterprises of all kinds within a defined geographical entity of the country. Information stored in BRISIN can be obtained either at the Ward, LGA, States or Federal levels. Without a system like BRISIN, Nigeria will continue to plan without facts. It is a sine qua non for development as done in all developed countries of the world.
Doesn’t this sound like a duplication of the functions of agencies like the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), National Identity Number (NIN) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)?
No! I would say that NBS is an executor of BRISIN. Federal Government gave them the mandate to execute the BRISIN. If we are replicating what others are doing they would not be executed of BRISIN, because it is very vital to achieving their mandate for NBS, for NIMC and others. They are just one little part of which should have been under the National Population Commission (NPC). Nowhere in the world could Identity Number replace a base foundation for economic growth, I don’t think it will happen in Nigeria. Identity Card would just be like other agencies that would derive their success and achievement of their mandate from BRISIN. With BRISIN they can tell whom they are handing Identity cards to, and how to trace that person should there be any problem. Right now they could issue out ID cards but if you say go and verify this person, they don’t have that structure, and that is why it does not replace what BRISIN is on ground to do rather it build the foundation for them to grow.
How will BRISIN contribute to the country’s socio-economic and political infrastructure, starting with security?
I have lived in Europe for years and I haven’t seen where security is fought with only arm and not information. The heart of security is information and if you ask the Nigerian Armed Forces they will tell you that, they have problem of information. Boko Haram they said initially had no face and these are problems of information. That is why BRISIN becomes inevitable to fight insecurity in a country like Nigeria; this is what happened all over the world. Even the problem of identification, you cannot identify who someone is if you don’t know where he or she comes from. BRISIN becomes fundamental, that is why when the Federal Government embraced BRISIN they inaugurated a steering committee, which included 22 ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) whose mandate could only be successful, if they were BRISIN based; security, finance, population, and a host of others, because they want to have a day-to-day information on them. Like I have said, the NPC inaugurated the Project Steering Committee on BRISIN comprising representatives from the 22MDAs including the NPC, NPC Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCS), National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), the State House, Ministries of Science and Technology, Information and National Orientation, Internal Affairs, Education, and Finance, which has been working as approved by the FEC.
If you say 10years ago we had 140million, how many people have died since then we cannot tell. Recently we had the situation in Nyanya (Motor Park bombings) and accurate figures could not be pulled out. What of foreigners who have died we can’t trace them back to their people. So these are the issues why we should know that without BRISIN we cannot do anything. Let’s talk about the economy. How does the citizen know the economy of this country, including the rebasing system which NBS did? In fact NBS insisted on BRISIN because even the re-basing that was done last 25years ago but we have come up with a system that could give us a clear picture of our economy. So when statistics is showing we are doing so and so with power, when planning we are doing so with clear pictures of facts and figures. When the Finance Minister wants to speak on the economy, she can say so authoritatively with facts and figures that has been compiled on daily basis, this is what makes the economy of a nation.
With the issue of corruption so endemic in Nigeria, do you think BRISIN can work effectively like other countries?
I want to make it clear once again that without data information, you can’t fight corruption. Two principal factors in corruption are the act and the actor, because if you don’t know the actor and the acting you can’t fight corruption. So if you accuse me to be corrupt, you will have to prove it that you know that I am corrupt. But with BRISIN you have time that events occurred and it will be difficult to deny.
As FCT prepares to Pilot the project or system, what areas do we expect improvement?
FCT would become a modern state, in the sense of all what happens in the developed country in terms of management economy, reorganization would happen in the FCT. It also would begin to bear on those wicked people who have thought of destroying the fortunes of the FCT. The wealthy will now have to contribute to the economy, by paying taxes due to them.
After the FCT, where next?
In 2010, we requested that FCT might not be enough to buttress the social impact of BRISIN, so we requested the president to approve one state from each geo-political zone and the President did. Like I said I will have to congratulate President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for being a visionary president for this particular project, because Nigeria has to be a state. We have a nation we do not have a state, after BRISIN you will now have a functional state. This project will need a lot of orientation and awareness, for Nigerians to understand what it means.