The apparent loss of interest by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration may have put a final nail on the coffin of the $3.5 billion so far spent on the electronic national identity card (National e-ID) project.
Sources inform that the Presidency has been unable to resolve a series of crises that have been stalling the continuation of the project initially billed to have attained 70% achievement by 2016.
It could be recalled that former president Goodluck Jonathan, with funfair, publicly launched the all-purpose plastic card in September 2014 and assured all that the cards were targeted at reaching the 170 million Nigerian population, in a staggered exercise, which would see 2017 as deadline for all to have it.
The card is targeted at solving many identity-related issues, including being used as ATM card, voters’ card and ECOWAS travelling id card, among others.
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A monitoring committee, made up of the then Finance Minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former managing director Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia and Chairman HEIR holding, Mr. Tony Elumelu, was constituted to give the projection the needed pep.
Two firms, MasterCard and Chams constituted a consortium of companies to work with the National Identity Management Company (NIMC) to achieve results.
But a faceoff between the NIMC and one of the companies, Cham barely a year after the public presentation of the programme, was said to have ended in court.
However, the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians led to a negotiation, capable of resolving the claim by Cham that about N25 billion damages be paid it by NIMC for alleged breach of contract.
Said Mr. Charles Samuel, an official of Ria Pay Solution, one of the firms in the programme: “The identity programme can be said to be going on, but in such a slow pace that it could be said to have been dead. It can only take a renewed interest from the government to achieve the projected result.
“If the initial zeal by government were sustained, by end of 2016, at least 60 per cent success would have been recorded before end of 2017 meant to be the ultimate end result.”
It was learnt that the directive by President Buhari that all various establishments that are issuing identity cards be collapsed into one portal may have further introduced another bottle neck that would not allow the multi-billion dollar identity card project to see the light of day soon.
At some public offices, where NIMC has its posters announcing that the services exist, members of the public were subjected to payment of some amount of money to be captured in their data bank, without being issued the card.
Mrs. Bisi Adeyinka, a Lagos-based petty trader put it this way: “After paying N500 for my details to be captured, I was asked to go to the Air Force Base in Ikeja. It was my third day of such visit that I was attended to, and I have been asked to go to the zonal headquarters of NIMC for my card, and this I have done without any card given me.”
So far, the e-ID card is all but abandoned, and the huge resources committed to the project, like many other government initiatives may just be set to go down the drain.
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