Since 27th February, 2020 that Nigeria recorded her first index case of Covid-19 pandemic things have never been the same again for both FG , State Government , LGA and at the individual level. As the FG had joined the international community in taking all necessary actions to not only protect her citizens and legal residents but also to provide succor to vulnerable Nigerians whose means of livelihood might have been affected by the government proactive actions to curtail the spread and reduce mortality which are not limited to lock down, curfew and closing of the country’s borders but also to provide palliatives to vulnerable households throughout the country.
But the FG efforts regarding the palliative aspects of the Covid-19 containment has been riddled with controversies owing to the facts that there’s no identity authentication or real time identity crises of the recipients, a void NIMC can bridge if not for neglect, with the NIN and Payment applet embedded in the GMPC e-ID Card issued by NIMC. According to the NBS executive summary of the 2019 poverty and inequality report released on 4th May, 2020 which noted that over 82.9 million Nigerians lived below its poverty line of #137,430 per annum which translates to about #375 per day. Which by implication means 40.1% of the population live in poverty. Whereas, the records from the National Social Register of the Poor and Vulnerable Households Distribution by States as at 31st March, 2020 put the numbers of vulnerable households and individuals to about #2.6 million and #11 million respectively. However, on 2nd April, 2020 the minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq opined that 2.6m vulnerable persons are currently to benefit from the Federal government cash transfer intervention programme. But ever since the FG kick started the palliative distribution programme and conditional cash transfer, several Nigerians had accused it of been high jacked by middleman at the detriment of the real vulnerable households , others argued that it’s highly politicised or skewed to favour members of a particular political parties etc. And these have made several concerned Nigerians to call for the adoption of digital payment method, others suggested to identify the vulnerables by BVN, INEC records etc.
Nonetheless, in midst of these intractable controversies,It is appalling and glaring that only a few spirited Nigerians like Nurudeen Alimi publication in Tribune Online of April, 2oth 2020 titled,” Covid-19 : Place of NIMC in Access to Social Security /Palliative in Nigeria” etc had called FG’s attention to the nearest solution to the problem which is the use of the National Identification Number (NIN) issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to identify , authenticate and provide a real time identity of the real vulnerables. It is no doubt that NIMC has the only all-inclusive and reliable Database in Nigeria. BVN with its about 40 million records is restricted to holders of bank account numbers which most vulnerables Nigerians don’t have. INEC with over 84 million records are only restricted to Nigerians of voting age from 18 years and above, FRSC, NIS, NCC-SIM registration as well have restrictions etc. The incidences of disappearance of Covid 19 index cases in some states of the federation without traces or rather difficult to trace can be taken care of by their NIN especially if NIMC is adequately funded to get all Nigerians registered and provided NIN which is equivalent to USA Social Security Number, UK ‘s National Insurance Number etc . Currently the about 42 million of Nigerians with their NIN registered with NIMC is actually inadequate for Nigeria’s about 200 million population. Hence, this is why the Labour Situation Room on Covid-19 on 11th May, 2020 called on FG to “empower” NIMC to register all Nigerians . I purposely put the empower in inverted commas because NIMC is already empowered by NIMC Acts of 2007 and other relevant and gazzetted regulations but the financial capacity to carry the NIMS mandate in all ramifications and take care of its staff welfare to accelerate the enrollment of all Nigerians is one of the major challenges facing the commission.
Hence, the Covid-19 and matters arising should as a matter of urgency make FG to provide NIMC with required financial capacity to capture all Nigerians within 2-3 years which will as well help FG and its allied security agencies to easily fight national and transnational crimes like terrorism and other criminal impunities in the country bordering on identity theft or manipulations etc. It could be recalled that USA certain Class of Visa ban on Nigeria was attributable to identity related issues. Also the NIN will help all levels of governments in Nigeria to root out the incidences of ghost workers or other identity related crimes.
In as much as NIMC today ,requires all the funding from FG that is necessary to have all Nigerians registered.NIMC as well have the capacity to rake in billions to the Federation account if all its ancillary services and products are activated and supported . And since the FG is gearing towards MDAs rationalization as a fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, if the Presidential Directive of Harmonisation of Biometric Data in Nigeria is pursued with adequate political will as noted by Former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, Data harmonisation can save the FG about #40 billion incurred as operational costs by different MDAs for their stand-alone data collection and evaluation systems.
In conclusion, in as much as the Covid-19 had caused NIMC to halt enrollment as the staff are exposed to the hazards of physical contact with applicants or enrollees and other hazards as a result of daily exposure to computer rays for which the Union has been pursuing for the restoration of Hazard and other allowances , as well as Paramilitary Salary Structure to enable NIMC Staff deliver this all important National assignment seamlessly to Nigerians. We will also hereby appeal to FG to please approve same for NIMC Staff as the GM Legal said on interview published on 4th May, 2020 by Punch Newspaper that despite the Covid-19 challenges to NIMC operational activities the Commission is still on track to meet set targets by its readiness to make changes to its operational processes to keep its staff and clients safe in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asekokhai Lucky Micheal
Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria
[ASCSN], NIMC Unit