NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD AND NIGERIA’S SOCIAL SECURITY
Social security is a concept enshrined in Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.In simple terms, the signatories agree that society in which a person lives should help them to develop and to make the most of all the advantages (culture, work, social welfare) which are offered to them in the country. Social security may also refer to the action programs of government intended to promote the welfare of the population through assistance measures guaranteeing access to sufficient resources for food and shelter and to promote health and well-being for the population at large and potentially vulnerable segments such as children, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed.
The issue of social security in Nigeria has been a subject of discussion amongst many local and international social activists. When compared to the Welfare system of the United States of America, there is no strong social security system in Nigeria that caters to the vulnerable segment of the nation’s population. The lack of a proper social security system in Nigeria has been blamed on so many factors, funding being the biggest culprit. In some quarters, the fear that such a project may be abandoned or altogether discontinued by successive governments which may bring with it dire socio-political consequences has also been blamed. One factor however that can make or mar the success of a social security system In Nigeria is information. Nigeria has at yet to develop and maintain an up-to-date identity database for her citizens. Without such a database, any attempt to embark on creating and sustaining a standard social security system that will meet the stipulations Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be defeated. Thankfully, the Nigerian Government has realized this and thus the setting up of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
Act No. 23 of 2007 saw the establishment of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) whose primary goal is to foster the orderly development of an identity sector in Nigeria through the development of a modern and universally acceptable identity management infrastructure in Nigeria. The Act empowers NIMC to establish, manage, regulate and enforce an effective and secure Identity Assurance System that would facilitate the harmonization and integration of identity databases in government agencies, ensure sustainability, reliability and acceptance across diverse points and contexts and application of the verification and authentication services within and outside the country. One such identity system of which registration is already ongoing is the National Identification Number (NIN)
The National Identification Number is an identity number which every citizen of Nigeria from the age of 16 years and above and legal residentswill receive upon registering and enrolling their biometrics with NIMC or any of its authorized registration centers. Arrangements are also currently being made to ensure that all persons from birth can be registered and enrollment of biometrics from the age of five (5) can be achieved. It is similar to the United States of America’s Social Security Number (SSN). This is a set of numbers assigned to an individual by the government as a means of tracking its citizens, permanent and temporary residents for the purposes of work, taxation, government benefits, health care, and other government-related functions.The NIN once issued to a person cannot be used again, (that is, it cannot be issued to another person even if the previous person is dead). It is the NIN that helps to tie all records about a person in the database and is used to check the identity verified. The NIN is issued on a card called the National Identity card.
Already, the National Identity Number is a required form of identification for most local and international financial transactions as well as an acceptable identification document by many local and foreign establishments both in the public and private sector. Its alternatives are National Driver’s License and the Nigerian International Passport. More and more Nigerians have become more aware of the benefits of having the card. It is no longer a case of “forcing” people to cooperate with the registration process as they themselves now understand the limitations facing them if they do not obtain their identity number. The hallmark of this project will be when this information will finally be used to provide adequate social security to the Nigerian people such as is available in other developed nations. Finally even the most destitute can enjoy the true dividends of democracy and be truly feel like a citizen.