Monday, August 17, 2015

Duplicating biometric-capturing exercise is unnecessary and wasteful..NPC

Muhammadu Buhari

Duplicating biometric-capturing exercise is unnecessary and wasteful

The imperative of harmonising the collection and usage of biometric data in the country has come under focus again. This time, it is by way of a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari, after receiving a briefing on the activities of the National Population Commission (NPC). “It will be more cost effective if you work together. It helps even the credibility of the election process, as Nigerians of voting age can be identified easily,” said the president who wondered why each agency would gather its own biometrics, when such data could easily be shared.
While we align ourselves with that position, we must quickly recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave this same directive more than a year ago when he said all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) should work with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the agency saddled with the task of providing biometric database for the country. To the extent that nothing was done about his directive as several agencies continue to demand biometric data from Nigerians, we hope that there will be compliance this time.
Biometrics is based on individual characteristics of the subject and is, as such not necessary to be replicated or duplicated for authenticity. There are no two persons with the same set of finger prints, palm prints, or retina in the world. Since biometrics is therefore as individual as the DNA of a person, any pretensions about needing to capture same in a multiplicity of places for security efficiency and effectiveness falls flat on its face. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Nigeria with biometrics data collection becoming one big racket.
In the last few years, Nigerians had been made to provide their biometrics, some of which clearly bordered on extortion. Several agencies of government including the National Population Commission (NPC), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and indeed the Nigeria Police had at different times asked Nigerians for their biometric data, and sometimes generating concerns among members of the public about the time, money and energy wasted.
The recent Bank Verification Number (BVN) registration exercise, an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is a case in point. As at the time the deadline was extended by another four months, not many Nigerians had registered. The low response to the exercise was attributed largely to “fatigue” on biometric registrations. Many Nigerians have become weary of doing the same thing many times over, particularly when the process is cumbersome and time-consuming aside the fact that the “gains” of the exercise are not easily available and verifiable.
The controversial move by the police to introduce Police Biometric Central Motor Registration (BCMR) certificate sometime ago, ostensibly in aid of efforts to curb crimes and terrorism, drew caustic criticisms from the public and had to be shelved. To worsen matters, especially in the case of the FRSC, those seeking to renew their driver’s licence are made to go through the same process again and again, making nonsense of the essence of their biometric data capture. Perhaps one of the most comprehensive exercises was the compulsory registration of SIM cards and the collection of the biometric data of Nigerians, done at a huge cost to the nation.
In asking that the agencies align with the NIMC early in 2014, former President Jonathan had decried multiple identity capturing exercises. “Aside from being unwieldy,” said Jonathan, “the cost of operating multiple discordant databases and infrastructure is unsustainable. Government cannot afford the continued proliferation of data capture activities.”
Now that President Buhari has added his voice to this concern, we hope all the agencies of government that have turned data collection to one big official scam would desist.

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