Nigeria’s Endless Search For Accurate Biometric Data | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigeria’s Endless Search For Accurate Biometric Data

Posted: Sep 10, 2015 at 12:04 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

In this special report, fourth of five parts: Sylvester Enoghase, Oladunjoye Phillip,  Emmanuel  Okwuke, Abel Orukpe, Olamide Bakare and Judith Eshemitan, takes a critical look at how a biometric-based census will eliminate multiple respondents, and ghost respondents, while making the outcome easy to audit.

Unending Biometric Data Chase

Reactions have continued to follow the directive given by President Muhammadu Buhari to government agencies to harmonise the collection and usage of biometric data in the country.

BiometricMachineSome Nigerians spoken to by our correspondent agreed with the president, while some expressed divergent views.

The President’s directive followed the briefing he received on the activities of the Chairman of the National Population Commission, Eze Duru Iheoma.

President Buhari had wondered why biometric data should be collected by the National Population Commission (NPC) National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) among others when such data could easily be shared.

What this implies, according to President Buhari, is that the agencies would be working at cross purposes to the detriment of Nigeria.

Iheoma had told the president that a national population census would cost about N273 billion and that about N10 billion of the amount would be needed immediately.

The amount of money mentioned by the NPC chairman further brought about reactions from Nigerians.

Speaking on the issue, Public Commentator, Mike Adigwue, stated that what the Federal Government had done by given directive to the agencies of government to harmonise their data collection was a welcome development.

He argued that before the coming of the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, about five government agencies were collecting biometric data for just one country, adding that it does not make sense.

Adigwue further argued that a situation where the Federal Government budget or allocated funds for five government agencies to carry out one biometric data collection was a waste of the scarce resources of the country.

Such funds, he added, should be budgeted to other spheres of the economy that were begging for attention instead of being given to five agencies of government to do the same job, adding that the meaning of what had been happening was confusion with each of the agencies claiming to be doing the right thing.

The Public Commentator posited that what the president had done was timely as it would not only make the Federal Government to spend less compared to when all the five agencies would conduct separate biometric data collection.

He contended that as it is presently, the biometric data collected by these agencies may not be reliable because Nigerians do not know the agency whose data is correct compared to when an agency is handling it.

For him, the job of biometric data collection by multiple Federal Government agencies is abnormal, adding that it could not have happened in other climes.

Adigwue advised the Federal Government to give the duty of collecting biometric data to the NPC instead of allowing multiple agencies to carry out the responsibility.

He also called for the merger of some of the agencies, as there were a lot of duplication of duty.

According to him, “It is nauseating to discover that National Population Commission (NPC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and others carried out biometric data collection, when it should have been done by one agency. This is a waste of scarce resources, which should have been used for other projects that are begging for serious attention.”

He continued, “The job of collecting biometric data should be left in the hands of NPC and not these four agencies.  Beside, some of the agencies should be merged to cut cost. Nigeria cannot continue to budget funds for five or about five agencies to carry out a particular job when one of these five agencies can do it. It is not proper and it is a waste of limited resources. Like the president said, they should harmonise their data and positions.”

Also speaking, a businessman, Mr. Akin Ibikunle, said that the idea of different Federal Government agencies collecting biometric data was rampant in the last administration led by former President Goodluck Jonathan, adding that now that President Muhammadu Buhari is in charge, he had given directive to these agencies to harmonise their data.

He stated that the move was a welcome development and that it would not only help to cut cost but that when the final data was released Nigerians would believe it compared to before where every agency keeps these data to their chest.

Ibikunle wondered why several agencies of government would carry out biometric data collection when the NPC for example should be saddled with the responsibility of carrying it out.

The businessman posited that apart from the fact that several biometric data had been carried out by Federal Government agencies on Nigerians, the telecommunication operators such as Glo, MTN, Etisalat and Airtel also collect biometric data from Nigerians for their sim card registration.

To buttress his point, he cited the telecom operators, who carried out biometric data collection on subscribers who have the various sim cards at the point of purchase only to be told of recent that their sim cards were not registered.

Multiple Biometric Data Collection Ineffective

He lamented that there had been several biometric data collection carried out and that Nigerians had not seen the usefulness of the data collected and what had been done with them.

According to him, “We have seen several biometric data being collected by banks, government agencies and telecommunication operators yet we have not seen the effectiveness of these exercises by the different organisations. In the first place how credible were these collections, what does the government wants to achieve with it, why are there so many government agencies collecting biometric. What have they achieved with the ones collected so far?”

“Recently, telecoms operators barred some of its subscribers from making calls and these subscribers had at one time or the other done their biometric with their various networks. What must have happened to the biometric data these telecoms operators collected?”  he asked.

All these biometric data collection that had been carried out over the years, he added, should be harmonised to achieve better planning for the country, adding that if this was done, it would help in getting better result, adding that the data churned out by whichever agency that was given the job by the Federal Government would be credible.

On his part, the publisher of Aviationline Magazine, Mr. Moses Kolosi, stated that the collection of biometric data carried out in the past by the various Federal Government agencies had not achieved the desired result, calling on the Federal Government to stop the idea of different agencies collecting biometric data.

He stated that all the biometric done so far were a waste of funds, adding that for example, the census exercises that had been done in the past had not been accurate despite the huge resources spent on it.

The Federal Government, Kolosi stated, should go ahead and harmonise the biometric data that had been done in the past, adding that allowing multiple agencies to carry out biometric data would not yield fruitful result.

On what the Federal Government should do as it concerns collection of biometric data, he said that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) should be saddled with the responsibility instead of given the role to the National Population Commission (NPC).

He argued that NIMC was in the right and proper position to collect biometric data for Nigeria and Nigerians, as it would continuously update it compared to the NPC that conducts census every 10 years.

According to him, “All the biometric data collected in the past by these government agencies have not achieved the expected result. By implication, what that means is that the agencies failed. The Federal Government should go ahead and harmonise these data as it planned to do to avoid duplication of duty and wasting of resources.”

He continued, “The Federal Government should saddle the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) with the responsibility of carrying out biometric data,” thereby advising other agencies of government to back out.

The publisher described Buhari’s directive as timely, adding that his predecessors had wasted a lot of money on several biometric data without results, warning that the agency that would be given the responsibility should be properly monitored.

The Former Sectary General of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Gideon Ogbuji, said that the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to Federal agencies to harmonise biometric data was a welcome idea.

He posited that it now depends on the agency, adding that there are some government agencies that rely on government subvention and that these agencies should not carry out biometric data collection.

According to him, “There are some government agencies that are not dependent on government subvention. Whatever they get is what they use in running the organisation; payment of salaries and even remit some to the federal government purse. So, if all the agencies can harmonise their biometric data collection into one, it would be better instead of duplicating the job.”

He added that he was not against the biometric itself but against multiple agencies doing it.

According to him, “I see the collection of biometric data as duplication of duty because the National Population Commission (NPC) is doing it and other agencies are equally doing biometric data collection even commercial banks and telecommunication operators are doing it. It is the same question, information and nothing is different from the other.”

He continued, “Then if they ask Nigerians the same information, what stops them from harmonising the data they have collected and share the information with other agencies. If I am giving information to agency A different from what I have given to NPC, it will reflect. It will even be detected.”

To buttress his point, he gave example of his friend who lost his sim card and that while trying to register another sim card with another name though it was one of his names, it was discovered that it was not his name but that when his original name was written and biometric collected it was accepted.

“For example I know a friend who lost his sim card and wanted to get another sim with different names, though they are all his names. He now gave the telecom operator his second name but when his biometric was taken it was discovered that he was not the owner of the name he gave them. But when he now gave the telecom operator his original name, it was accepted,” he said.

He continued, “You can see that it is possible to have a harmonised collection of biometric data. I see the collection of biometric data as duplication and waste of time.”

Previous Efforts Not Fruitful

Speaking further, Ogbuji said that all the directives given by the presidency including that of the harmonization of collection of biometric data by the various federal government agencies are basically on professional advice but that what he does not know is whether they were able to make a very clear study of the harmonisation of the collection of biometric data that is now being talked about.

“If they believe that is what they want, well good for them but I believe that at the end of it all it is a duplication of duty. Be reminded that all the telecom operators are also into biometric data collection. The data are all the same thing. What do they want to get from Nigerians? It is just the basic information; your name, age, next of kin, address and others. It is just because they have not been able to harmonise the data. All of them ought to have harmonised the data. Any agency that wants information about a particular person can access it.”

On his part, the former General Manager, Air Nigeria, Mr. Francis Ayigbe, stated that the directive by the president is welcomed, adding that Nigeria had spent billions of naira on the collection of biometric data in the past using multiple federal government agencies, which up till this moment had not yielded fruitful results.

He wondered why several agencies should carry out biometric data when one agency could do the job, describing it as duplication and a waste of huge resources that should have been channeled to other sectors.

He pointed out that if all the biometric data that had been collected had been done by one agency such as the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Nigeria, he said, would have saved a lot of money.

The former general manager posited that up till this moment, Nigerians were still waiting to know what the effectiveness of the data the various agencies and organisations had done considering the recent development in the telecommunication industry.

Ayigbe added that recently some subscribers, who had earlier registered their sims with telecom operators were barred from using their networks due to what they called improper registration.

The former spokesman said that the same subscribers that were barred by these telecom operators were registered by them some time ago, wondering why the same telecom operators were now barring the subscribers.

He advised the Federal Government to give the responsibility of collecting biometric data to the NIMC, adding that the practice prior to the harmonisation directive did not do the country any good.

He said that when the power to carry out biometric is given to NIMC, any other agency that wants to use the data should apply to the authorized agency for the information it needed.

According to him, “The directive came at the right time because several organisations have collected biometric data of Nigerians and up till this moment Nigerians don’t know what they are doing with it.”

He continued, “We have spent billions of naira on collecting biometric data using many organisations. This huge amount would have been channeled to other sectors of the economy. In my opinion, the responsibility of collecting biometric data should be the responsibility of NIMC. I do not support the suggestion in some quarters that the National Population Commission (NPC) should be given the responsibility because censors are done every 10 years but if it is given to NIMC, it will be updating it every year.”