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Nigeria National e-ID Card ‘is not glorified payment card’, NIMC says

Nigeria National e-ID Card ‘is not glorified payment card’, NIMC says

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has said the new National Electronic (e-ID) card “is not a glorified payment card” while responding to critics of the system that lets government obtain unique information of Nigerians.

President Goodluck Jonathan last Thursday received his National Electronic (e-ID) card to officially launch of the e-ID pilot programme in the country.

Upon completion of the pilot programme, NIMC will introduce more than 100 million cards to Nigeria’s 167 million citizens, according to the agency.

[blockquote right=”pull-right” cite=”Barrister Chris Onyemenam, Director General and CEO of NIMC”]NIMC also said it is working with several government agencies to integrate and harmonise all identity databases including the Driver’s License, Voter Registration, Health Insurance, Tax, SIM and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) into a single, shared services platform. [/blockquote]

Chris Onyemenam, Director General of NIMC
Chris Onyemenam, Director General of NIMC

Responding to critics of the new ID programme, the government agency said that the e-ID card is a National Identity Card offering a number of functions of which payment is one.

NIMC, the issuer of the National e-ID card said that it “is primarily a National Identity Card with a SmartCard built-in, containing provision for up to 13 applets, of which 5 are activated when an applicant picks up his/her card.”

NIMC dispelled the notion that the national database being created by the agency will be accessible to foreign governments and companies like MasterCard.

“MasterCard is providing functionality for 1 of the 5 applets, just as you have with your ATM Cards. No one complains that your name is on the ATM card, or that that information may be held in America. The concern here is biometric data and other demographic information such as next of Kin and so on. MasterCard does not have and will never have access to such information”, the Nigerian ID manager added.

According to the agency, “any suggestion that MasterCard, Visa, or any other foreign body will gain access to the database is pure fiction not backed up with evidence.”

Meanwhile, in the pilot phase, the NIMC will issue MasterCard-branded identity cards with electronic payments functionality to 13 million Nigerians.

The agency calls it “the largest rollout of a biometric-based verification card with an electronic payment solution in the country and the broadest financial inclusion program in Africa.”

The e-ID card forms a key part of the Nigerian Identity Management System, deployed by NIMC as part of its mandate to create, maintain and operate the country’s first central National Identity Database and provide proof of identity to Nigerians 16 years and older.

With 13 applications, including MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology and Cryptovision’s biometric identification technology, the e-ID card will provide millions of Nigerians – the majority of whom have never had access to a banking product – with the security, convenience and reliability of electronic payments, according to the issuing authority, NIMC.

“I am happy that this important milestone of the rollout of the National Identity Management System has been realized today. I am impressed with the quality of the e-ID card and the work of the corporate partners that made it possible. I commend especially MasterCard, and Access Bank Plc, as well as the Commission [NIMC] for achieving a world-class product”, President Jonathan said at the formal launch held last Thursday in Abuja.

According to him, the card builds a window to a social security benefit system and therefore, it is a card every Nigerian should get.

NIMC also said it is working with several government agencies to integrate and harmonise all identity databases including the Driver’s License, Voter Registration, Health Insurance, Tax, SIM and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) into a single, shared services platform.

“The National e-ID program enables us to create an optimized common platform for Nigerian citizens to easily interact with the various government agencies and to transact electronically,” says Barrister Chris Onyemenam, Director General and CEO of NIMC. “There are many use cases for the card, including the potential to use it as an international travel document, which will have significant implications for border control in Nigeria and West Africa.”

“In close collaboration with both the public and private sectors to meet the full potential of this program, NIMC is focused on inclusive citizenship, more effective governance, and the creation of a cashless economy, all of which will stimulate economic growth, investment and trade,” he adds.

Through the collaborative efforts of NIMC (the project lead), MasterCard (payments technology provider), Unified Payment Services Limited (payments processor), Cryptovision (Public Key Infrastructure and Trust Services Provider), and pilot issuing banks including Access Bank Plc, 13 million Nigerians will gain access to state-of-art financial services as part of the pilot program.

“This is a memorable occasion for MasterCard as we witness the start of a financial inclusion program that is unprecedented in scale and scope,” says Daniel Monehin, Division President of Sub-Saharan Africa, MasterCard.

According to the MasterCard executive, “combining an identity card with MasterCard’s prepaid payment capability creates a game changer as it breaks down one of the most significant barriers to financial inclusion – proof of identity – while simultaneously enabling Nigerians to access the global economy.”

He said the broader economic impact of the card will be felt as the previously unbanked and under-banked are able to gain access to the mainstream economy, and the visibility of their assets allows them to build a financial history and establish credit-worthiness with financial institutions.

According to the payment company, using the card as a payment tool, Nigerians can deposit funds, receive social benefits, save, or engage in many other financial transactions that are facilitated by electronic payments with the extra security assurance that biometric verification provides. They can also pay for goods and services and withdraw cash at millions of merchants and ATMS that accept MasterCard payment cards in Nigeria and in more than 210 countries and territories globally.

MasterCard claims it has “unsurpassed merchant acceptance; no other brand is more widely accepted” adding that the card also has the added safety and security benefits offered by the EMV Chip and Pin standard.

Mr Herbert Wigwe, the Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, said that “Access Bank is a supporter and promoter of innovative ideas that would improve the quality of lives of Nigerians. This initiative provides another opportunity to highlight our commitment to national development and nation building.”

To receive the e-ID card, Nigerians aged 16 and above need to register at one of the hundreds of NIMC enrolment centres nationwide. The enrolment process involves the recording of an individual’s demographic data and biometric data (capture of 10 fingerprints, facial picture and Iris) to authenticate the cardholder and ensure that there are no duplicates on the system. Upon registration, NIMC issues each Nigerian with a unique National Identification Number (NIN), followed by the national e-ID card.

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Kayode Oladeinde Technology Journalist at Technology Times. Mobile: +234 (0) 7031526929