CHAIRMAN’S SPEECH AT THE PRESENTATION OF THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON CITIZEN DATA MANAGEMENT AND HARMONIZATION TO MR PRESIDENT, HELD AT ASO ROCK VILLA ON THURSDAY AUGUST 13, 2020
1. I wish to most respectfully thank His Excellency for creating time from his very busy schedule for the formal presentation of the Report of the Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization.
2. Mr President may recall that following the temporary visa restrictions placed on Nigerian citizens on January 31, 2020 by the United States Government, His Excellency constituted an 18-member Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization on 3rd February, 2020 with membership comprising:
i. Minister of Interior (Chairman)
ii. Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy
iii. Hon. Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning
iv. Hon. Attorney General of the Federation & Minister of Justice
v. Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs
vi. Hon. Minister of Police Affairs
vii. Director General, National Population Commission (NPC)
viii. Director General, National Identity Management Comm. (NIMC)
ix. Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)
x. Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
xi. Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
xii. Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)
xiii. Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)
xiv. Inspector General, Nigeria Police Force (NPF)
xv. Corps Marshall, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC)
xvi. Director General, Department of State Services (DSS)
xvii. Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA)
xviii. Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF)
3. The Committee was mandated to:
i. review the visa restrictions and develop systems and processes that would address the security concerns raised by the United States of America as well as work towards the early removal of the restrictions;
ii. review the status of Nigeria’s numerous citizen identification data (including biometrics) held by different Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); and
iii. propose strategies for the harmonization of the multiple data sources into a single database/platform owned and managed by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) through NIMC.
4. Mr President may also recollect that the Committee submitted its Interim Report on 19th February, 2020 in line with its Terms of Reference and was billed to submit its final Report by March 2020. However, following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Committee suspended further sittings and was only able to resume in the month of June to conclude its assignment following the relaxation of restrictions put in place to curtail the spread of the virus.
5. At this point, it is my pleasure to inform Mr President that the Committee which he so carefully composed has diligently addressed its Terms of Reference. All concerns which led to the imposition of visa restrictions by the United States have been reviewed and processes put in place or proposed to address them. The Committee also engaged with the United States Ambassador to Nigeria and the Charge d’ affaires of the United States Embassy in the course of the assignment.
6. On the Terms of Reference relating to Visas Restrictions, I wish to inform Mr President that out of the six areas of concern raised by the United States, Nigeria had fully satisfied two, two are substantially satisfied while little progress has been made on the remaining two. Specifically, Nigeria started issuing electronic passports in 2007; had distributed passport exemplars to all foreign missions accredited to Nigeria including the USA; substantially provides information on Travellers Identity except data on Emergency Travel Certificates for Nigerians being repatriated while information on 145,695 Lost and Stolen Passports had been transmitted to the INTERPOL Database as at 31st May, 2020, following the intervention of the Committee. In addition, the Nigeria Immigration Service has now acquired the capability to directly transmit information on Lost and Stolen Passports to the INTERPOL Headquarters in Lyon which was one of the key demands of the United States.
7. However, the Committee noted that the remaining two demands, being information on Known and Suspected Terrorists; and Criminal History Information, although available in the individual databases of relevant security and intelligence agencies as well as the Federal Ministry of Justice were not collated, analysed and shared in a structured manner. To this end, the Committee recommends the setting up of a Criminal Information Management System to include the establishment of a Data Fusion Centre fashioned after the INTERPOL model for pooling of crime data and a National Criminal DNA Laboratory with the Nigeria Police Force as the co-ordinating agency. This is to be complemented by an institutionalized standard procedure for the collection of DNA samples of all suspected criminals in Government crime control and custodial facilities to aid criminal investigation and administration of criminal justice
8. Mr President, on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization, the Committee made the following key findings;
i. Fourteen agencies hold substantial citizens’ data which were largely disjointed and in duplicates;
ii. National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) which is responsible for identity management is not adequately funded to effectively deliver its mandate; and
iii. some MDAs have complied with NIMC’s standard and made progress in aggregating their data into the central National Identity Database (NIDB) while most have different formats of data collection as well as varying equipment hence, require equipment upgrade and standardization for effective integration and harmonization.
9. Accordingly, the Committee recommends as follows, amongst others:
a. NIMC should concentrate its effort more on its regulatory functions and issuing of unique identity token while NIMC Act should be amended to specify licensees authorized to collect biometric data under the digital identity ecosystem on its behalf;
b. the harmonization of all existing identity data held by Agencies with National Identification Number (NIN) should be completed by 30th June, 2021 except INEC whose deadline was extended to 31st December, 2021.
c. INEC should collaborate with NIMC and NOA to utilize the NIN in voters’ validation exercises for upcoming elections and work towards ensuring that all eligible voters were issued NIN by 31st December, 2022.
d. all agencies currently capturing identity data should be directed to commence full enforcement of NIN as a requirement for accessing their services;
e. Federal Government should issue an Executive order that would provide for:
i. exclusive collection of biometric data by NIMC and its Licensees;
ii. exclusive storage of Biometric data in the National Identity Database and the discontinuance of biometric data storage of new registrations by all agencies and institutions in Nigeria;
iii. the mandatory use of the NIN for identification in all government services;
iv. the mandatory use of the NIN by all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) for issuance of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) with effect from 30th June, 2021 subject to the issuance of NIN by NIMC to at least 80 per cent of the population; and
v. NIN as a unique identifier for all public servants.
f. the National Population Commission (NPC) should commence digital birth, death and other vital registrations (marriage, divorce, adoption etc.) at all hospitals and designated NPC offices in all wards as well as integrate with the National Identity Database (NIDB);
g. the upgrade of the network and related infrastructure at NIMC for speedy access to the NIDB and storage of citizens biometric data; and
h. putting in place an effective supervisory mechanism, possibly through an appropriate Ministry to monitor and track the performance of NIMC and its future implementation plans.
10. Your Excellency, the estimated cost for equipment, facilities and processes required to implement the recommendations as detailed in the Report is N71.12 billion. While the Committee is not unaware of the nation’s dwindling resources at this time, it is recommended that a special intervention fund be set up for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations in view of its enormous benefit to the nation which include:
i. issuance of a unique identifier — National Identification Number (NIN) to all citizens and legal residents in Nigeria;
ii. an effective citizens’ identity management system as a critical tool for planning as well as national and global security.
iii. a centralized identity database for all citizens and legal residents for validating and authenticating identity related information;
iv. deterring terrorism and related societal crimes through secure online identification, pre-screening and tracking of citizens;
v. creating interface for access and utilization of identity related data for delivery of services and solving security challenges;
vi. institutionalizing behavioural and cultural change through real time online and offline availability of essential identity data;
vii. providing a reliable and comprehensive database that meets international specifications for identity management protocol and information sharing; and
vii Collection of citizens and residents DNA in the criminal information database.
11. QUICK WINS
Mr. President may wish to note that on the issue of DNA collection and integration with the NIDB:
11.1. There is a critical need for the establishment of a National DNA Data Bank for Nigeria. This is a national database maintained by the government for storing DNA profiles of its population. They are generally used for forensic purposes which includes searching and matching of DNA profiles of potential criminal suspects.
11.2 The DNA profiles shall be done through various laboratories to be established across the states of the federation with each state having a dedicated data storage, analysis and compression centre.
11.3 The National DNA databank shall be linked to all the states laboratories which can be outsourced to qualified private partners.
11.4 The establishment of a National DNA data bank, testing laboratories and Data collection structures and formations across the federation to support the national security architecture of the country.
12. Your Excellency, it is my honour and privilege to on behalf of members of the Committee, formally present the Report of the Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization. It is our hope that the findings, strategies and implementation plans proffered, if fully implemented will expedite the lifting of the visa restrictions while bequeathing to the nation an enduring identity management system.
13. Once more, on behalf of the Committee, I sincerely thank His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the opportunity to serve on this very important Committee.