Nigeria National Identification Card -Its Costs and Benefits


Akinyemi Akinlabi


With less than ten months to the expiration of the current administration, it is almost certain that the national identity card project is already becoming a still-born child. It is worrisome that no administration has been able to break this jinx and provide all Nigerians with identity cards since the project was started in 1963. Funny enough, every successive administration has been allocating yearly fund to the project. The current administration tried to make it a reality but it is doubtful if up to 10% of Nigerians have been able to collect their national identification card despite all efforts and money allocated to the project. Why do we always have problems starting a good thing?


Only God knows the amount that has been siphoned out of the nations covers in the last forty-three years in the name of this project. I will not be surprised if Nigeria has not spent more money to provide ID for less than 10% of the 120 Million people than the United States spent to provide for her entire 298 Million inhabitants.  It would be pathetic if this project is completely abandoned and if the in-coming administration refuses to go ahead and complete this task.


The Nigeria national identification card is designed to combine two services: to identify Nigerians and also to provide the same information and services a U S social security number provides to an American and what the National Insurance numbers provides to a British. Having a reliable national identification card and citizens register  will be a good compliment for national planning, election, census board, law enforcement, banking, tax collection, pension board, education and in fact the judiciary. Although Britain has a National Insurance Number (NIN) system in place since 1948 (A NIN is made up of two letters, six numbers and a final letter, which is always A, B, C or D). , she plans to commence the issuance of National ID card in 2008 and she thinks that this should be completed by 2013. The British ID card is planned to record biometric data, including fingerprints, digitized facial scan & iris scan.  I hope this will not be several years before Nigeria will complete her own. In United States of America, the Social Security Administration Agency is under the US government while the issuance of the corresponding Identification card or driversí license is controlled and guided by each of the 50 states. However, an ID or drivers license issued by any of the US states or her territories is acceptable in any of the other states.


In America for instance, the Social Security as introduced in 1935 contains a nine digit number assigned to every legal resident of the country by the United States Social Security Administration Service. There were two motives for the Social Security (1) to differentiate two or more people with the same names (2) to create a social insurance program that would ensure workers would have a source of income after they retired. The Social Security Act was enacted at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. For example, there may be several Yemi Akinlabi in Southwest Nigeria but the nine digit number assigned to each of them differentiate A from B. Hence in every transaction with government and its agencies, everybody gives his social security number after its name. This makes identification easier. A lot of other information like home address, phone number, date of birth, parentís information, DNA information, criminal record, driving record, marriage information and even employment record of people are stored with the number. Hence, a complete life history of a person can be pulled from the computer (by authorized government officials) with his social security number.


Owing to lack of national identification card, Nigerians walk about the country (and outside the country) with nothing to identify them thereby making it easier to get roped in crime or even to commit crime and get away. Apart from this, a lot of people considered to be missing by their loved ones are actually dead and found by people who can not identify them for lack of ID or DNA analysis. Similarly, a criminal may escape justice if he relocates from his Abeokuta home where he has committed a crime to nearby Ibadan to reside. He may decide to change his name from Kola to Musa. Since there is no ID card to identify him and proof his real name, the police officer will be looking for Kola but since he lives with Musa, he may not suspect that he is actually living with a wanted man.


In terms of judiciary and dispensation of justice, a national identification number would have made it easier to differentiate between Evan Enwerem and Evans Enwerem. A register of citizens would make it easier for us to confirm if our former Senate President actually had a twin brother who died during the civil war. In a similar vein, it would make it easier for the judiciary and the Deltians to differentiate between James Ibori, the governor and the one who was sentenced in the celebrated case. (If it was true).


The positive role national ID card would play in the election process can not be over emphasized. It would reduce multiple registrations for election as well as multiple voting. It would make it easier for the electorates to register to vote from the internet and in fact at anytime before the election. It will ensure that every electorate registers once since everybody has one national ID card number and the computer will reject any number that is incorrectly associated with the name the applicant is trying to register. Correspondingly, the computer will reject any name that has previously been registered.


The British national insurance number, just like the US Social Security number assist the government a lot in the collection of taxes and the distribution of social services and public assistance to the needy. It makes it easier for the government to identify those who paid their taxes just as it assist to identify those who want to cheat or apply for social services more than they deserve.


In developed countries where ID card, National Insurance and the Social Security cards works, banking and application for bank credit has been reduced to a five to ten minutes task. Customers conduct transactions (including borrowing) from the bank over the internet or through the phone once they give the correct ID number associated with the applicantís name. In a nutshell, life for Nigerian could be easer and simpler with the National Identification Project.


Nigeria leaders are not unaware of the several benefits of the ID card and Social security system. They travel all the time and see the positive impacts it has on the economy of other countries. Can we then conclude that frustrating the ID card project is a deliberate act to give them free access to commit crimes?



 Akinyemi Akinlabi

Miami Gardens, Florida