Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has launched a national electronic identity card scheme, which is expected to boost access to financial and government services in Africa’s most populous nation.The new card features a credit card-style chip with personal as well as biometric data and doubles up as a prepaid charge and debit card. Jonathan was officially issued his own card to kick off the service among the country’s 180 million people. Jonathan used the card to make cash withdrawal with his electronic identity card to demonstrate its workability.
The cards will be available initially to Nigerians aged 16 and older and all residents in the country for more than two years. Cardholders will be given a unique national identification number and have to provide fingerprint data, a photo and digital signature to cut the risk of fraud and embezzlement.
While a number of Nigerian government agencies, from the police, Federal Road Service Commission to the Independent National Electoral Commission, have embarked on their own separate ID card schemes, Jonathan said the plan was to eventually collapse all these schemes into one and significantly end the duplicity of data. The new card will eventually include details such as driving licence, health insurance, bank accounts, tax and pension information on the single card. Only 32 percent of Nigeria’s adult population are thought to have bank accounts, according to a 2012 study.
“The regime of duplication of biometric databases must now have to give way to harmonisation and unification with the e-ID scheme, which shall be the primary database,” said Jonathan in Abuja while launching the new national ID card scheme.
Nigeria’s Central Bank has been pushing for electronic payments in the heaviliy cash driven Nigerian economy. After a successful pilot scheme in the financial capital, Lagos, the financial regulator announced a nationwide electronic payment scheme putting penalty on cash withdrawal above N150, 000 for individuals. But the e-payment scheme has is faced with challenges. Retailers and customers often have to contend with frequent power supply and connectivity problems that slowed down transactions.
The scheme has so far cost about seven billion naira ($42.5 million, 32 million euros), according to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). Financial services firm MasterCard, the scheme’s payment technology provider, said 13 million cards would be available in the first phase, with more than 100 million to be issued in total. “Nigeria is ready for this. Nigeria has been left out of electronic financial payment for decades but now Nigeria is saying we want to take our rightful place in payment. There has not been a project of this magnitude… that’s been rolled out at this scale,” the firm’s head of Sub-Saharan African operations, Daniel Mohin, told news company AFP in Abuja.
Facts on the new National e-ID Card
The new e-ID card, launched by President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, is powered by MasterCard
It is a multi-purpose card for identification, electronic signatures,
It can be used for depositing money, withdrawing and making payments.
The e-ID card is both an ID card and ATM reader.
The first phase of the project targets issuance of cards to 13 million Nigerians
The second phase targets 100 million Nigerians.
The project is a partnership with MasterCard, the Nigerian National Identity Management Commission and Access Bank.