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Buhari denies ordering use of national ID cards for 2019 polls

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The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has denied ordering the use of national ID cards for the nationwide polls coming up in 2019.

This was contained in a State House released issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity in the Office of the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande.

The statement reads:

Our attention has been drawn to some misleading newspaper reports today claiming that the President gave “orders” that national identity cards be used in the 2019 elections.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the President has made no such order and the Vice President’s speech (delivered yesterday by the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Ade Ipaye at the Policy Roundtable on Identity Eco-System in the country, which the report used to make such erroneous claims), certainly made no mention of the 2019 elections at all.

What the speech said was that the President has taken an initiative to harmonize identity management in the country so as to ensure that every Nigerian has a unique identifier. 

And in the same vein, the speech added that it is the “President’s charge that the National Identification Number, (NIN) is used to authenticate eligible voters in the near future, as well as in the areas of access to health insurance, registration of SIM cards, access to social welfare, financial transactions, etc.”

What this means is that such a unique identifier as the NIN can, when eventually issued, help to confirm age and nationality status of eligible voters, for instance. 

Or even help determine eligibility of persons presenting themselves for health, social welfare, financial and other available services in the country.

The President was not giving any directive to INEC or any order regarding 2019. 

Mr. President and this administration fully respect the autonomy of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) and also very determined to preserve the integrity of the electoral process at all times.

Here below is the Vice President’s speech verbatim; the speech was delivered by Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Ade Ipaye, yesterday:

KEYNOTE ADDRESS OF HIS EXCELLENCY, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO,  SAN, GCON, AT THE POLICY ROUND-TABLE MEETING ON IDENTITY ECO-SYSTEM HELD ON THURSDAY 08 DECEMBER 2016 AT THE STATE HOUSE BANQUET HALL, PRESIDENTIAL VILLA, ASOKORO, ABUJA, NIGERIA

Protocols 

I am delighted to welcome you all to this policy roundtable on identity management in Nigeria. I am particularly happy with the representation of all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the World Bank and other Development Assistance Agencies here today.

The importance of this policy discussion necessitated my acceptance to chair the meeting, which is aimed at optimising the benefits of digital identity and leveraging its use for accelerating development. 

The particular focus on harmonisation and integration of disparate government identity management databases is of course a matter of crucial importance to Nigeria.

Identity plays a pivotal role in our lives and cuts across so many sectors of the economy. As a government, we recognise the huge importance of moving towards a Digital Government. 

Therefore, we must embrace and harness the potentials inherent in digital identity to build and develop our country. 

Nations all over the world and, in particular, developed countries, have utilized identity as a foundation to transforming governance and enhancing service delivery in the areas of healthcare, agriculture, voting, transportation, financial inclusion, access to basic services and welfare programmes, amongst others. 

A case in point is Estonia, a country of just over 1.3m population (World Bank estimate in 2016). 

According to Digital Nomads, “Estonia currently has one of the most advanced e-government systems in the world. This includes a single digital ID that enables citizens to access all of its secure services. 

Applicants can obtain a digital ID that will let them register their business within a day, open a bank account, use e-tax services and sign contracts from anywhere in the world. 

There, you don’t need to input any data manually for your tax declaration as all data is gathered and prepared automatically. And it can make digital nomad life and business much easier.” 

The Nigerian National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has commenced work on the harmonisation of all our disparate Identity Management Systems into a concise system to ensure completeness, accuracy and integrity of such a national asset. 

In this regard, I believe that Nigeria must use its digital strategy to establish a global reputation for technological leadership and business dynamism, building digital ecosystems in which innovation can thrive. 

We will invest in smart infrastructure, platforms, and services; digitise our records and classify them accordingly; review and upgrade the legal and regulatory framework; and nurture digital talent. 

Virtually all the developed nations have a single identifier that forms the core of their identity. 

For instance, in the UK, it is the National Insurance Number, which is mandatory to have as soon as a citizen turns 16 years of age and becomes eligible to work and pay tax accordingly. 

In the USA, it is the Social Security Number and, in India, it is called the Aadahar number. 

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