Editorial: Between NIN, BVN And Individual Identity

Editorial: Between NIN, BVN And Individual Identity
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There is no doubt that the issue of an authentic human database in Nigeria has been a herculean task, even as underlying concerns over the nation’s real population figures remain unabated. Yet such a document is a sine-qua-non for an effective national planning towards enhancing growth and development.

It is obvious but preposterous that no census has been undertaken long after the largely controversial 2006 population census. Besides the disputed figures of the last census which was somewhat politicised, it has become evident that another headcount is long overdue, if the 10 years between as prescribed by the relevant convention is anything to go by.

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Recently, the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami revealed plans by the Federal Government to replace the Bank Verification Number (BVN) with the National Identity Number (NIN).

This is as the Ministry is collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure citizens with BVNs are automatically provided with NINs.

This disclosure was made by Pantami, when he led a delegation of chief executive officers on a visit to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and a private NIN enrolling centre in Abuja.

After making a presentation to the National Economic Sustainability Committee, the Minister said his attention and that of the CBN Governor were drawn to the need to replace BVN with NIN.

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Pantami said since then, the two establishments had been working on the initiative, with the CBN having more workload to facilitate the process, in order to make it much easier for Nigerians.

The Minister pointed out that the challenge is that the BVN records may not be 100% the same as the NIN, but what is most important is that the NIN is the primary identity of every legal resident in the country.

He said, “BVN is a policy of the CBN and has not been established by law. The NIMC Act 2007 provides that all our citizens must enroll and the law gives 60 days to enroll from the time the law was enacted and a maximum of 180 days.

“All permanent residents in the country and legal residents that have to stay here for a minimum of 24 months must enroll so that the primary identification of all and all other databases are supposed to utilise this and not for NIN to utilise the BVN because it is the primary one”.

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In an era where identity theft and fraudulent financial activities have dominated the landscape, having an established and coded identification for all classes of residents has become imperative.

On a grimmer note, the activities of unidentified terrorists and inflow of illegal resources to drive terrorism, achieving a scheme to have a near-accurate database of residents has become ever crucial.

AljazirahNigeria posit that as laudable as this new policy may be, government should take a second look at it as it is capable of undermining the nation’s security given that NIN is an all-comers affair. Foreigners who have stayed upwards of 24 months are eligible to enroll in the scheme, thus making it vulnerable to abuse when criminal elements explore same and jettison it afterwards by fleeing the country.

We are also concerned that replacing Bank Verification Number, BVN, with NIN as being canvassed by the Minister could also pose difficulty for Nigerians offshore. Some in the Diaspora who own accounts back home may find it difficult to return to enroll in the NIN simply because of the need of aligning their accounts with the same. It might just be too cumbersome for them to do so.

We are also impressed by the impervious nature of BVN which has the capacity to checkmate cases of fraud, money laundering and other financial infractions even outside our shores, as we fear that NIN by its ‘vague audience’ is not likely to be able to plug such holes.

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We further canvass that while NIN could be enforced, scrapping BVN may be counter-productive in the long run. They can be allowed to co-exist as they can complement each other as it were.  

Importantly, AljazirahNigeria also notes with immense concern another challenge of influx of illegal immigrants who would take undue advantage of the NIN exercise to register dubiously. We urge the government to ensure that the background of those individuals who are captured or would be captured is meticulously scrutinised as there are fears that foreigners who have infiltrated the Nigerian territory through its many porous borders have indeed aggravated the already parlous security situation.

Aljazirahnews


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