Could NCC’s NIN-PVC Linkage Solve Nigeria’s Underage Voting Problem?

Man’s hand holding card sign; Shutterstock ID 152788127

The National Identification Number will now be required for every form of important registration in Nigeria including voter’s registration. This was disclosed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami at a meeting on Thursday with the National Executive Council of the Association Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria in Abuja.

Dr Pantami clarified that NIN will be required when opening bank accounts, registering for voter’s card, paying taxes, registering sim cards and other transactions. The identification number of each citizen is the most effective way of tracking the volume of people in the country and will aid decisions relating to national planning, budget, security, social development and many more.

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With the goal being to ensure that every Nigerian obtains a NIN, Pantami said that this is the reason the government has been coming up with “policies trying to ensure that our citizens obtain the number.”

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“It is important beyond SIM registration. It is important for whatever you do because it is the primary identity of our citizens.”

Since 2007, the NIN has been classified as an integral part of any registration processes in the country. However, it has been sidelined by banks and other institutions who have only prioritized other details such as Bank Verification Number (BVN) and contact details.

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An ongoing registration process

When anyone registers for the NIN, verification details such as school ID card, BVN, voters card, birth certificate or declaration of age as well as name and other contact information are collected from the person. The NIMC also has a functioning portal for people to pre-enrol before moving on to the stage where they need to be physically present.

The biometrics of each person is captured into the database from all of the fingers present on the hand of the person registering. In addition to this, the facial ID is also captured and all of these details together make the NIN a very credible way of knowing who is who and who did what in the country.

As such, the NIN has the potential to solve the problems of multiple and underage voting in Nigeria.

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At the moment, the voting procedure in Nigeria involves an accreditation process that ascertains that the voter’s card belongs to the person who wants to vote with it. The voter’s card itself is received after a process that collects the identity card, national passport or the driver’s license and establishes the age of the citizen.

Despite the PVC requirement, underage voting has been a longstanding challenge with the electoral process. No one is eligible for a voter’s card until they are 18 years old. Yet the 2019 election was fraught with pictures on the social media of children below 18 years on the voting queue with accredited voter’s cards.

With the NIN linked to the PVC, it will be possible to doublecheck the age of a voter and flag the voter whose age is below 18 even if he or she has an accredited voter’s card. A loophole will occur if the NIN process also documents the age of the voter as above 18 when it is below. However, the NIN registration requires that a minor be registered with a parent or guardian in tow and in this case it will be difficult to pass off an underage as a young adult.

Since one of the documents accepted for NIN registration is the Declaration of Age, it is possible that the parents may swear to a wrong age for the child in the presence of a Judge or the Justice of the Peace, but this may only be possible with children who have a body size close to that of adults. Notwithstanding the possible loophole with the NIN registration, enforcing it as a required document for the PVC registration could reduce the incidences of underage voting in the country.

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