President Goodluck Jonathan, Thurday, voiced his frustration over identity problem which made it impossible for his administration to compensate victims of the 2011 post-election violence in many parts of Northern Nigeria.
He spoke at the launching of the nation’s electronic Identity Card, e-ID, in Abuja. It was the first time the president would explain a vexed issue for which victims of the crisis accused him of abandonment.
His words, “I’m particularly pleased about NIMC, National Identity Management Commission, because a number of things we are supposed to do well as a nation, we are not doing well. And sometimes we blame government but because of the failure of the system and the credibility of the process.
“When the issue of the 2011 post-election crisis in the north came up, properties were burnt, and we thought how do address this. We set up a committees to take inventories of things and take data of people. I then asked the then Minister of National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman, to come up with a blueprint because we must know the figures, we must know what we have. We cannot venture into what we cannot conclude.
“By the time you want to do payments, you find that those who are affected will not get the money.
“I remember when I was in OMPADEC as the Head of Environmental Protection Unit, if there is no oil spillage if you go to any environment in Niger Delta, you can trek across one kilometer you will hardly see gods. But when there is spillage, everyone square meter you go you will see baby gods everywhere. So the spillage that is supposed to drive everyone away reproduce gods everywhere because every baby god is entitled to some compensation. So these are the problems we have”.
Fresh subsidy targets
The president said his administration was prepared to provide subsidy for Nigerians but that it was critically important to identify those to be targeted .
He said, “if you take the issue of subsidy of transport, what we do is subsidising hydrocarbon . It does not go to the ordinary people. Government spends huge sums of money, hundreds of billions of Naira every year in the budget, ask the National Assembly. Sometimes it is controversial. We are subsidising kerosene yet the price is going very high in the market, subsidising PMS and so on.
“We are thinking about how do we subsidise transport of the person going to school, the person going to the market, the person moving from Lagos to Enugu or Lagos to Kano. Not paying subsidy that 60 per cent of that will be smuggled out of the country. And those who make the money will come and use that money to induce the people suffering to even riot against government”.
MDAs to align with NIMC infrastructure
President Jonathan directed that all Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, MDAs, involved in data capture activities, must align their activities, with a view to switching over to the NIMC infrastructure.
According to him, it would be cost-effective for all identification management projects to migrate to the NIMC project which would house a single ID database for the nation.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of Access bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, said that his organization was partnering with the NIMC in the e-ID project in recognition of its importance in the financial inclusion.
According to him, the Know Your Customer, KYC, requirement in the banking sector would be simplified through the e-ID and would therefore enhance the nation’s payment system.
His words, “the scheme solves a lot of problems. First, it solves the problem of identifying your customers, KYC, Know Your Customer. But today’s occasion is more important than all of that. It helps in reducing the negative biases we have about Nigeria, just because we have no identity cards, so anybody from anywhere can claim to be a Nigerian.
“Now because this card is biometric in nature if your name is Herbert Wigwe, you cannot change that name because my thumb print and finger prints are on it. So if there is fraud you can trace who the person is and where he is. Your payment details are all there so if you like at the end of the day, it is showing who a person is truly is and we can identify that person as a Nigeria and what he is doing and things around fraud which are generally associated will come to an end.
Most importantly, this card, apart from being an identity card is also a payment card and will support the electronic payment system in the country.
“It cuts across the whole spectrum of the people- the poor people, who can now take their money on the card. Through this card can know people who are paying their taxes. It is another version meant to leapfrog what we have lost over the last 30 years.
Also speaking, the Director-General of the NIMC, Mr. Mr.Chris Onyemenam, said “it will also reduce some of the security challenges that we have as a country because you can truly identify everybody and thereby determine who comes from which country or not. We are coming from a situation where there was no proper identification”.[Vanguard]