NIGERIA: Achieving Reliable National Electronic Identity System

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Recently, the National Identity Management Commission was issued an international security certification. Kunle Aderinokun writes that by the certification, it has scaled a major hurdle in its implementation of a globally-acceptable national electronic identity card
 
 
The British Standard Institute (BSI) recently awarded the Nigeria Identity Management Commission (NIMC) ISO/IEC27001. ISO/IEC27001 is one amongst a family of standards that have to do with the security and protection of information. 
International Standards Organisation (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are foremost global rules agency. ISO has thousands of guidelines that touch on almost all aspects of human life while IEC is the conformity assessment body for all fields of electro-technology. 
The international security certification has given fillip to the implementation of the national identity management project
 
An elated NIMC Director-General, Mr. Chris Onyemenam, stated at the award ceremony in Abuja penultimate Wednesday that with the certification, the commission had crossed one more hurdle in the process of issuing the national identity smart card in the country.
He expressed the hope that the milestone achievement would help Nigerians overcome cynicism which they ‘justifiably’ harboured against the past national identity management schemes.
Onyemenam, who noted that “if you want to be in the global arena, how well your systems and processes conform to international best practices matters,” was optimistic that “over time you pass on this culture and you can bring back confidence.”
 
BSI, which performed the audit and accreditation around ISO/IEC27001 for NIMC has over 100 years of experience on global best practice during which time has helped over 72,000 organisations ranging from top global brands to small ambitious businesses in 150 countries.
In fact, as the organisation which between it and the United Kingdom’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) originated the ISO/IEC 27001, which the group first published in 1995, BSI is one of the few organisations in the world that understand standards from start to finish.
Shahm Barhom of BSI, who oversaw the information security process for NIMC said during the ceremony that he was in Nigeria to provide the assurance to Nigerians that the commission had the competences required to safeguard critical national information asset for the country. 
According to him, people see BSI as the police department that oversees standards in the world and NIMC was one of the first national institutions in Nigeria to get the ISO/IEC certification. 
Experts at the epoch-making event posited that attaining the highly-rated ISO/IEC 27001:2005 was a triumph for the commission in particular and Nigeria as a whole. They noted that the national identity management authority had by the certification demonstrated the capability to secure critical national assets.
 
The experts included Adedoyin Adunfa of Digital Jewels, the main consulting firm for the certification process; as well as Anthony Okocha of Forbs Consulting Limited; Tunde Coker of Emerging Markets Payments; and Ubong Awah of International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank.
They also enthused that the emerging identity management sector, which NIMC is creating in the country and associated processes and technologies on which the National Identity Management Systems (NIMS) are based in the country, were at the same standards and in some cases even higher than elsewhere in the world. 
 
Accreditation and certification, which BSI performed, have several stages. The first and preliminary step which is informal involves checking the existence and completeness of key documentation such as the organisation’s information security policy.
At this stage, international auditors familiarise with the organisation and its audit process. During the formal and more detailed second stage, auditing is about compliance and tests against the requirements ISO/IEC 27001. The auditors seek evidence to confirm that the management system has been properly designed and implemented. 
The third stage involves follow-up reviews or audits to confirm that the organisation remains in compliance with the standard. 
 
While sharing the news of the certification with the media ahead of the ceremony, Onyemenam, explained: “This certification is based on the audit of what we have put in place to ensure secure management of personal information and privacy of individuals. So, it means we have kept faith with our promise to meet global best practice in the roll out of NIMS infrastructure. Our services and infrastructure can be relied upon by the world, simple.”
According to him, “We are talking about unique identification of Nigerians and legal residents which must be relied upon by all.” 
 
The NIMC boss noted that the certification, which the agency received amongst other international rules and guidelines backing the operation of NIMC, would help to sanitise the image of the country around the world.
He stated that the best way to go about improving the image of the country and ensure that the world takes Nigeria serious is through technology, because technological measures are concrete and verifiable. 
 
“We have put in place an infrastructure that is technology-driven and based on a verifiable global best practice and this has been so acknowledged by an international standards institute,” he pointed out, adding: “We are serious about the image of Nigeria and playing by global rules of engagement for such acceptance about issues around the ‘dignity of the Nigerian International status’.” 
According to him, the new national e-ID would attract positive recognition and respect for Nigeria and Nigerians especially at international gateways and land borders. He noted also that his agency was putting in place the conditions for a global recognition for the NIMS. 
In this way, Nigerians have taken their fate in their own hands more than ever before as the effort is entirely driven by Nigerians. In other words, NIMC has arrived as a nation with a genie and verifiable identity token that can be relied upon by the world.
 
Responding to an enquiry, Onyemenam said the national e-ID card was in the horizon.
“We have again proven that something good can come out of the ‘House of David’, he said. 
“The world is about to receive a unique card from Nigeria. For the first time the national e-ID will have a payment solution, something that is unprecedented in the world and that’s why so many critics believed it can never happen. 
 
“We will launch the card as soon as the authorities approve a date. We then start issuing it immediately. We have arranged for the ‘post issuance’ of the other stakeholder agencies’ applets. We have delivered on the third component of the NIMS. The card is the one everyone wants to see. We will give it to you but it should be noted that it’s not even the most important aspect of the NIMS,” he added. 
 
Onyemenam continued: “The fourth component is being implemented and would be launched ASAP (as soon as possible). And the fifth, which is the harmonisation and integration will receive a boost as soon as government policy on this is revised and announced. As the president said we should all consolidate our identity data capture needs and verification services and the NIMC has a basic infrastructure everyone can key into. The era of data capture proliferation is coming to an end. 
“Very few public sector institutions have this kind of certification. We opted for this as part of credibility-built measures as we know so many people have lost faith in the ability of the public sector to create a basic and support infrastructure to get this identity management issue behind us. Given the strong citizen apathy and cynicism we inherited from the outcome of past efforts, especially the SAGEM ID Card project, we needed to do more than the ordinary to convince Nigerians that we are up to the task. 
 
“Like Albert Einstein once said: ‘You cannot solve your problems with the same thinking that created them.’ Dimensioning our problems to include bench marking our methodology to international best practice and ensuring this independently by a world class institution is an important strategy for us to win back the confidence of even our enemies and detractors. 
“We now need to achieve the GVCP (GigE Vision Stream Protocol) to silence them forever and face the more daunting task of sustainability. For me the single mindedness of purpose bears fruit when things like this come true.”
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