By Adeyemi Adepetun
The multiple data capturing and registration exercises in the country are costing government billions of naira which, according to stakeholders, amount to duplication and waste of human and financial resources.
Many Nigerians probably must have participated in not less than four data capturing processes in the last seven years, with government agencies collecting the same set of information including biometrics each time.
These exercises include the voters' registration through the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Bank Verification Number (BVN) through the financial institutions; international passport registration through the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS); registration of Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) through the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); Driver's Licence through the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and lately the National Identity Number and Electronic Identification Card through the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
It was learnt that the National Population Commission (NPC) is also warming up for another data capturing should it get the nod to go ahead with its planned 2018 census.Attempt by police authorities to introduce another biometric capturing last year for use by the security agents had to be stopped by a court following public outcry against the exercise.
A senior executive in one of the new generation banks told The Guardian anonymously that banks spent close to N45 billion on the BVN registrations.Since February 14, 2014 when BVN was launched by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the Bankers' Committee in collaboration with all banks in the country and February 2017, about 51.7 million accounts have been registered.
Within the last five years, the NCC and the MNOs spent over N46.1 billion on SIM registrations, which also included biometric capturing. Specifically, while NCC spent about N6.1 billion, the GSM operators, including MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile (Etisalat) jointly spent about N40 billion.
On September 28, 2011, the Federal Executive Council under former President Goodluck Jonathan had okayed N30.66 billion to NIMC to embark on the provision of an electronic national identity card for all Nigerians of 18 years old and above in the first phase of the exercise.The then Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, at the end of the meeting, explained that the e-national identity would assist Nigeria tackle some security issues as well as solve so many challenges of statistics in various sectors of the economy.
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The Director-General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, revealed recently that out of the 18.5 million enrolments and registrations made since 2012, when the project started, the commission has only been able to issue 1.2 million cards.
According to a report, in 2015, the INEC spent about N87 billion on voters' registration and other data-capturing activities.To a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, the seeming confusion arising from the uncoordinated biometric collection and storage should be resolved in favour of a single useful database.
Aluko urged NIMC to collaborate with NPC and other agencies involved in data collection in accelerating the harmonisation of the various databases currently existing in silos in the country.In an interaction with journalists, the President, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Prof. Shola Aderounmu, said current multifarious databases in the country created general inconveniences to citizens, who repeatedly have to queue long hours for registration.
The President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, in an interview with The Guardian, noted that the multiple exercises indicate a lack of a data template required to capture the different types of information sought by each agency and company in the case of BVN and SIM registrations.
According to Olusola, the cost of these exercises is increasing because Nigeria suffers from a science-technology deficit, where adoption of technology is done from different sources and no collaborative thought is given to the national outcome.Commenting on the matter, the Director General, Delta State Innovation Hub, Chris Uwaje, said data, database and biometrics are strictly software issues of the IT profession, stressing that this unique domain drives the World ICT Ecosystem today.
Uwaje, a former President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), noted that costs of biometrics applications and solutions vary, depending on needs and intensity of requirement.
Uwaje, who recommended the establishment of the office of the IT General of the Federation, said it may be difficult to calculate the amount the country has lost to these duplicated exercises.