The Federal Government has said arrangements are ongoing to replace the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) with the National Identity Numbers (NIN).
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Dr Isa Pantami, who disclosed this to newsmen shortly after a tour of telecoms operators and NIN licensees in Abuja, said President Muhammadu Buhari has been briefed on the on-going NIN registrations.
Pantami said the President was excited with the conducts of the exercise so far.
He explained that he had made a presentation to the National Economic Sustainability Committee and drew the attention of CBN Governor that we need to replace BVN with NIN because the BVN is a bank policy, while NIN is a law because it has been established by law, noting that ‘‘the strength of the law wherever you go is not the same with a policy of one institution.’’
Also on the priority of NIN over BVN, the Minister said that ;‘BVN is only applicable to those who have bank account but NIN is for every citizen and legal residents in the country.’’
‘‘BVN is our secondary database, while NIN and the database is the primary one in the country that each and every institution should make reference to NIMC.
‘‘On the board of NIMC, CBN governor is a member, DG DSS is a member, Chairman of FIRS is a member, INEC Chairman, Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), National Population Commission and the Nigeria Immigration Service are all members of the board.
‘‘This is to show you that it is primary database that every institution in the country should make reference to, when it comes to data protection regulations, we are in the forefront in Africa today.
‘‘The level of security in all our database is 99.9 percent. There is no database that is 100 percent secured, the highest you can go, I think we are there.
‘‘That is why we came up with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation that we always enforce and this is applicable to the database at our disposal, we take care of it and make sure that security is excellent and we don’t allow anybody to compromise the content because it is a trust from our citizens given to us,’’ he added.
On why the government engaged private agents for the NIN enrolment, the Minister said, the move was in line with the global standard, where NIMC, the regulator is being made to operate as a regulator, while allowing the operators to operate independently.
‘‘Globally, a regulator is not supposed to be the operator’s as well because if the regulator is also the operator, who is going to regulate the operator.
‘‘What I inherited was that the NIMC was a full regulator of the sector and also the operator. So the global standard is to divorce the regulator to be independent from the operator.
‘‘For instance, NCC is the regulator of the Telecommunications sector but it does not own any telecommunication company, if it does, most probably, it cannot treat others fairly and justly.
“A regulator should be independent that he focuses more on regulating. In developed nations, you cannot find a regulator also serving also as an operator.
‘‘We need to allow the Commission to focus on regulatory work, they set the standards for biometrics registration, measuring of heights, and standard for data to be collected, verify everything.
‘‘When you enroll citizens as an agent, they must verify it and if they are comfortable and validates, the agent will be allowed to issue your number. Visited five centers and I am very satisfied.’’
At the MTN office in Maitama, the Minister told his hosts that he came with his team to see what has been going on and the improvement that should be made.
He also informed the MTN staff that the Ministry is working on the database to make it robust and reliable.
‘‘We are working on that, they are being verified but it is slow due to the high numbers of request. We are working on coming up with one verification and we do hope that the issue will be resolved soon’’
“The challenge is that the BVN records may not be 100 percent the same with NIN but what is most important is that the NIN is the primary identity of each and every citizens including legal residents.’’
Responding, the General manager of MTN, Amina Danbatta told the Minister that ‘there are people who have enrolled before but we couldn’t verify their information on the data base.
Another issue raised by the MTN staff was their inability to update enrollment from their office using costumers BVN.
The Minister who was in the company of the Chief Executives of agencies under his ministry and some ministry staff also visited the NIN Enrolment Centre at Gwarimpa, Airtel Office and Global Office all at Wuse 11 in Abuja.
Also visited was one of the newly licensed agents, Office Machines Nigeria Limited also in Wuse 11, Abuja.
The CEO of Office Machine, Okey Ikpe told the Minister that his company had met all minimum requirements by NIMC before commencement of enrolment; he thanks the Federal government for engaging the private sector and for providing the level playing field for them to operate.
For easy collection of NIN for completed registrations, he said Wednesdays and Saturdays had been mapped out by the company for successful enrollees to come for collection.
The Minister, who expressed satisfaction at the pace of work and quality of service at the centres visited, commended the staff for complying with the COVID-19 protocol and the Executive Order Number 5 of the Federal government.
He promised that the Federal government would do everything possible to ensure a smooth enrolment exercise.
On his part, the DG of NIMC, Aliyu Azeez, told the Minister that his staff still require broadband support and other logistics to function more efficiently.