President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday directed the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure that by December 31, 2014, all persons eligible for registration under the national identity card scheme are in the database.
He also said should by the same date, all government agencies requiring identity verification and authentication services or involved in data capture activities should align their activities with a view to switching over to the NIMC infrastructure.
Jonathan gave the directives at the inauguration of the enrolment for the issuance of the National Identification Number (NIN) in Abuja.
He said: "The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Federal Ministry of Finance must ensure that these objectives, which are aimed at streamlining biometrically-linked databases and optimising scarce resources, are accomplished on record time."
He expressed regret that valuable time and resources had been expended in the past in a bid to deliver an effective identity platform, but with limited success.
"As we recalibrate our efforts, we must avoid the pitfalls of the past, and stay focused on achieving results. This explains why I had set up a committee chaired by the vice-president to fashion the modalities required to institute a central demographic database.
"The committee has recommended that the NIMC and the National Population Commission (NPC), despite their separate obligations, work more closely, to complement each other and help deliver urgently a comprehensive centralised national database.
"Nigeria cannot be an exception to the global trend towards identity management and centralised national identity database. Already, there is a growing quest for specific databases and identity verification by several government institutions and private sector organisations in our country.
" Aside from being unwieldy, the cost of operating multiple discordant databases and infrastructure is unsustainable. Government cannot afford the continued proliferation of data capture activities. The proliferation does not grant any advantage in efficiency, neither does it make good economic sense.
"The growing identity verification needs, therefore calls for harmonisation and integration of identity databases and the development of a universal service infrastructure.
"While government remains committed to the accelerated development of the NIMS, the private sector must also rise up to its role. Corporate operators must seize the unique opportunities provided by the concession agreement, to make investments in the scheme,” the president added.
According to him, private sector’s participation would mean extended optimisation of resources devoted to addressing issues of proof of identity across the nation.
In addition, it would also lead to seamless integration and use of a common facility for identity verification and authentication, in both the public and private sectors, Jonathan said.
"If the work of law enforcement officers is to be enhanced; if consumer credit is to be accessible; if we are to reduce the cost of managing the naira cash component currently estimated at N192 billion per annum; if we are to reduce the amount of currency in circulation currently put at N1.93 trillion; if we are to achieve a multiple-pronged approach to the fight against corruption; and finally, if we are to introduce social security or welfare payments, then we must, first and foremost, establish and verify appropriately, the identities of individuals.
"An ascendable and flexible system that provides for expansion and upgrading in line with technological advances, is a necessary infrastructure that we must be equipped with, to meet our contemporary goals in building our nation.
"The management of NIMC must now drive this important project with all the seriousness it deserves. We must move deftly to discount time lost so far, for failure is not an option," Jonathan said.
The president commended the management and staff of NIMC for clarifying the differences between the NIN and the national identity card.
"Even though both card and number are important components of the National Identity Management System (NIMS), it is important that there’s continued education about their varied applications.
"I look forward to the scheduled formal inauguration/presentation of the national identity smart card. I believe that the assets and experience of this exercise will advance the work of the NPC, especially in its planned biometric census which is scheduled for 2016," Jonathan added.