By Latifat Opoola
“When I enrolled for the National Identity card early last year, I had expected the card would be ready in at most six months’ time. Whenever I go to their office, it has always been ‘go and comeback tomorrow’,” says Song Muru, a Msc student of the University of Abuja.
“The last time I was in their office was in September 2016 and after lodging my complaint, they collected my cell phone number and promised to call me when the original ID is available. However, the printout they issued to me is not accepted in some instances when I present it. I wish to call on NIMC to revisit their issuance procedures and make it faster,” he added.
Song is not the only one having trouble collecting his National Identity card, as over a million Nigerians who have registered are yet to be issued with the card since 2012 when the scheme was relaunched.
Nigeria first introduced a National Identity Card in 2005, but its adoption back then was not widespread.
Amaka Eze of the Corporate Communications Unit of the agency told our reporter the agency has “enrolled into the National Identity Database (NIDB) and issued the unique National Identification Number (NIN) to over 15 million people who have presented themselves for registration at our NIN Enrolment Centers across the nation.”
She confirmed that cards registered in 2012 are ready for collection, and urged those who registered then to check the portal or approach any NIMC State office to confirm that the card is ready.
“Currently, we have over half a million cards lying in the various Card Collection Centres waiting for collection. To resolve this situation, we have provided a portal where people can log on to check the status of their card,” she said.
“For some people who may have changed location from where they initially registered, they can walk into any NIMC office near them and make a card transfer request by filling a Card Transfer Form indicating where they now want the card to be sent. This request can only be made after they have received a text message or online confirmation that their cards are ready,” she noted.
Eze said the major challenges the agency continuously face with the project is that of inadequate funding. “This has limited us from carrying out a full scale deployment of the NIMS across the 774 LGAs of Nigeria. For now, NIMC has deployed over 500 NIN Enrolment and card collection centres across the country, and most of these centres open 8 hours every day of the working week to ensure that people who present themselves for enrolment are attended to. This requires funding. With adequate funding, we would be able to open enrolment centres in each LGA, provide adequate power to all centres for effective enrolment, print and deliver all outstanding cards, and deploy full verification and authentication services nationwide to enable government agencies and businesses verify individuals’ identities.”
On why the issuance is very slow, the commission said card personalization and issuance was not originally meant to be handled by the NIMC but through a private sector partnership arrangement which eventually suffered a setback and led NIMC to commence pilot card production in 2014 with a limited card personalization bureau.
This, along with funding challenges restricted the timely personalization and issuance of the cards according to the communications officer, but she assures that plans are at an advanced stage to expand and extend the personalization capacity so that the commission can print and issue card in a timely manner.