The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently partnered the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) to verify the addresses provided by SIM card owners during registration.
This partnership which, viewed as a welcome development also raises questions as to why government agencies are not sharing resource and information in the first place.
Nigeria still has poor Identity database
Identity verification is a popular problem in Nigeria and it continues to have a negative effect on the county. Recently, the US placed a travel ban on Nigeria citing issues related to identity verification.
Although, the government has been making progress with the roll-out of National Identity Number (NIN), a significant number of Nigerians still remain unregistered.
This discovery further shed lights on the continual individuality and lack of synergy between government agencies that has left Nigeria without a comprehensive Identity database.
Lack of synergy between government agencies
There seems to be a number of databases under the control of government agencies. Sim card registration allows the NCC collect loads of information. Many mobile users even undergo multiple registration for their different SIM cards which could be as much as 3 to 5.
For voter registration, the INEC collects hoards of raw information about Nigerians throughout the country. Because the exercise is usually a continuous one the database is always updated.
The National Population Commission also has its NIN registration which not only captures people’s data but also codes them all into an identification number.
Thus, if there are all these loads of information are in different government databases and there’s actual synergy among them, maybe all the information Nigerians will need to register for voters card will be their NIN. Or to register for SIM cards with just their voter’s number etc.
Implementation and enforcement won’t be very tasking as well. If Nigerians understand they require NIN for instance to use their SIM cards, they would be motivated enough to get them, very much like the BVN adoption.
Instead, most of this data is handled and collected by different government agencies which work individually. This results in Nigerians giving different types of data to different agencies making the information gathered almost un-synchronizable.
Although, a synchronized database system still doesn’t exist in Nigeria. There are still positives to be taken out of the partnership between NCC and NIPOST on the verification of addresses given by sim cards owners.
Providing a more accurate database…
In 2010, NCC effected the policy that all new SIM Cards in Nigeria must be registered before activation for use.
The registration requires sim card owners to provide their biometrics and biodata which includes names and addresses for the process.
However, the NCC has no framework to verify the originality of the addresses given during the registration process. Some sim card owners put in the wrong addresses and in some cases, the agent registering the sim cards don’t even request for the address.
With the new partnership, the agency can leverage on NIPOST’s significant national coverage to verify the address provided during registration. This will provide more accurate data on mobile phone users in the country.
The address verification will probably be facilitated by NIPOST’s Address Verification System (NIPOST AVS) which the agency launched in March 2018.
The NIPOST AVS which is usually accompanied by a Digital verification system uses the centralised and up-to-date database of physical addresses curated by its agents to verify the addresses.
NIPOST has over 5,000 agents and over 1000 offices across the country
A comprehensive Identity database provides a means for security personnel to easily track down or find criminals. Therefore having a database of all Nigerians will be a good proactive measure to ensure security.
The sim registration data collected is stored with the NCC is one of the most comprehensive identity databases in Nigeria. This is due to the growing mobile coverage in the country.
The data is held for 3 years during which the information can be shared with security agencies on request to help improve security.
Specifically, the Biometrics (fingerprints and facial scans) data collected during the registration process is the major information that helps security agencies find and identify criminals.
But while biometrics helps the security agents to identify people, it does not provide the location. The validated home address provided by NIPOST will give them a reference point to start searching for the person of interest.
As NCC partners NIPOST in this laudable project, concerned parties in the government should become aware of the fact that there is much more to benefit when there is synergy among agencies.
Nigerians themselves are tired of having to provide the same information every time they need to register for something. Just like one BVN is enough for all banking needs, so also a personal number or code which carries all this information should suffice.