The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, has decried the non-utilisation of the National Identification Number (NIN) database in the country by security institutions in the fight against insurgency, banditry and terrorism.
Pantami, who said though the national database is still work-in-progress, noted that information available can help mitigate the rising insecurity in the country.
The Minister spoke in Lagos on Monday, on the sideline of the forum organised by the Nigeria Office for Developing the indigenous Telecoms Sector (NODITS), an agency domiciled in the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC).
While acknowledging the escalating insecurity challenges in the country, Pantami said “though there are issues of banditry and other security challenges, some questions should be forwarded to the security institutions because what we have done is to establish the database, which is still work in progress. So far, there are over 86 million citizens in the database. What I inherited in 2020 when the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was transferred to me was only 41 million.
“Note that NIMC was established in 2007. In 13 years, they recorded 41 million and from October 2020 to date, we increased it by 45 million. The database is available and security institutions have power that whenever crime is committed to access the database. There is the Provision of Law, the Cybercrime Act 2015, they have Power of Lawful Intercept, that have been provided by law. They don’t need to come to us.
“From January to date, no security institution has confronted me, the Chairman or the EVC of NCC, that this crime has been committed, we want you to provide information and we denied them. It has never happened.
“Our work is to provide a database, which we have provided, but they have not come to ask for it in tackling crimes. They are not making use of it. The NIN database is there for assessment,” he stressed.
FURTHER, Pantami, while urging Nigerians to ensure they get their NINs and link it with their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards, said obtaining NIN is not optional; it is mandatory by law.
He stressed that the National Identity Management Act 2007, Section 27, states clearly that obtaining NIN is mandatory for all citizens and legal residents and “it is not allowed for one to obtain a passport, driver’s license or enjoy any government services without NIN.”
Speaking on the benefit of getting identified with NIN, he said, “firstly, obtaining it is a provision of the law and the law has been in place before I was appointed as a minister and before NIMC was transferred to me in October 2020. We only enforced it.
“Secondly, NIN has many benefits. You can’t go to any developed countriy and work there without an identification number. In the USA, you need a Social Security Number; in the UK, you need a National Insurance Number. If you go to India, with all their population, you need a number to be identified with. So, this is not only for Nigeria. In all other countries, developed and developing countries, they all have their identification numbers.”
According to him, establishing a national database is key and prerequisite towards economic development, national planning and others. “No better planning without a national database. So, our target is to ensure that there is a national database in place, which will be one of the major legacies we are going to leave behind, a central database for Nigeria. We shouldn’t be just estimating our population; we should be factual about it.’’
“The benefits of national ID far outweigh any population figure. When the census is over, the record is kept aside, but through NIN, you have a database, where you will have all the demographics and be able to plan very well. So, we should not limit it to security. Though, security remains a priority and it is because of this that we compromise economic gains sometimes for it. As long as both of them cannot be pursued simultaneously, the preference is security over the economy because without the former, there cannot be the latter. If a country is safe and stable, the economy will grow.”