Nigeria To Replace Bank Verification Numbers With National Identity Number

Nigeria’s Communication and Digital Economy ministry has disclosed that it would substitute BVN for NIN, in a bid to capture the data of all citizens.

The Nigerian government says it has plans to replace the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) its banking system uses for security, with the National Identity Number (NIN) in its expansive digital identification project for citizens.

Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, disclosed this during a facility tour and inspection of the ongoing NIN enrolment exercise at NIMC and other designated centres in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

A biometric identification system implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to curb illegal banking transactions in the country, BVN will be replaced by the National Identity Number (NIN) which would serve as a primary database of Nigerians for security and accessibility to government interventions.

Pantami said he had submitted the replacement request to the National Economic Sustainability Committee in which Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, is a member.

He said the BVN is a regulator’s policy, while NIN is a law.

“The strength of the law wherever you go is not the same with a policy of one institution.

“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,” the minister said.

Pantamir said BVN was only applicable to those who had bank accounts while NIN was for every citizen and a legal resident in the country.

In recent months, the Nigerian government has intensified efforts to capture citizens’ information in a central database for easy identification to combat crime and insecurity that continue to grip the West African country.

The ongoing digital identity enrolment in Nigeria is part of a World Bank co-funded project approved last year.

Dubbed Nigeria’s Digital Identification for Development, the project is expected to issue digital ID numbers to at least 150 million Nigerians in three years.

However, digital rights activists have raised concerns about data privacy issues.

Allaying this fear, Pantami said his ministry came up with a legal framework that would govern the process.

“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 charged the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the agency in charge of the identity registration to focus on regulatory work, set the standards for biometric enrollment, measure heights, standard for data to be collected, and general verification.

Asked why the government engaged private agents for the NIN enrolment, he said the collaboration with the private sectors in the NIN enrolment is a universal standard.

He stressed the need for public-private engagement for economic development.

“The economy of Nigeria relies more on the private sector than the public sector,” the minister said.

“If you look at our GDP collectively, it is approximately around $450bn which is the highest in Africa. If you compute, you will discover that the entire sector of government particularly the federal level is approximately around 8.5 per cent, while that of the private sector is more than 91.5 per cent. The government cannot do without collaborating with the private sector.

“What the government must do is to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and this is what we have been doing every day to come up with policies for the private sector to thrive.

“This is what brought about tax holiday, visa on arrival in Nigeria, online registration of companies by CAC.”

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Aishat Babatunde

Aishat Babatunde heads the digital reporting desk. Before joining HumAngle, she worked at Premium Times and Nigerian Tribune. She is a graduate of English from the University of Ibadan.

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