Nigeria: National Identity Management In Nigeria: Matters Arising

Last Updated: 31 July 2019
Article by Isa Alade and Oluwatoba Oguntuase

Recently, the applicability of the provisions of the law and regulations governing national identity management in Nigeria was tested in two separate and interesting law suits. This article reviews the extant legal and regulatory framework for national identity management in Nigeria vis-à-vis the decisions of the various courts and analyses their implications on the activities and business transactions carried out by individuals and corporate entities in Nigeria.

Introduction

An effective national identity management system is critical to the development of any economy. It provides a universal identification infrastructure for a country that enables access and means to confirming the identity of individuals residing in a country. Thus, proper economic planning, adequate intelligence gathering and a functioning internal and external security architecture will be difficult to achieve in the absence of a robust national identity system (which is usually comprised in a central identity repository or database).

In recognition of the foregoing, the National Identity Management Commission ("NIMC") was established in 2007 pursuant to the NIMC Act[1] to create, manage, maintain and operate a unified National Identity Database for Nigeria[2]. To this end, the NIMC, which replaced the defunct Department of National Civic Registration, is required to carry out the registration of all registrable persons in Nigeria and thereafter issue a General Multipurpose Identity Card ("National Identity Card") to each registered person[3].

In terms of the NIMC Act, registrable persons[4] comprise the following:

  1. Any person who is a citizen of Nigeria;
  2. Any person who is lawfully and permanently resident in Nigeria, whether or not he is a citizen of Nigeria;
  3. Any non-citizen of Nigeria who is lawfully resident in Nigeria for a period of two (2) years or more.

The information[5] that may be obtained and stored in the National Identity Database about a registrable person include: full names; other names by which the person is or has been known; date of birth; place of birth; gender; address of the person's principal place of residence in Nigeria; address of every other place in Nigeria where the person has a place of residence; passport photograph; signature; fingerprints and other biometric information of the person. In addition to the foregoing, information in respect of a registrable person relating to nationality; entitlement to remain in Nigeria together with the attached terms and conditions (if any) may also be recorded in a registered person's entry in the Database.

The National Identity Card issued upon completion of the registration process bears a unique National Identification Number ("NIN"), which is assigned by the NIMC to each registered person in the National Identity Database. The unique NIN is required to be incorporated into or made compatible with other existing identity-related databases/registers containing information/data relating to the registered person[6].

In order to ensure efficiency in the task of covering the whole country, the NIMC operates administrative and monitoring offices in all the States, Local Government Areas and Area Councils of the Federation.

Legal Significance of the National Identity Card

As provided in the NIMC Act, registration and procurement of a National Identity Card is compulsory for all registrable persons in Nigeria. In this regard, there are no age restrictions for registration and possession of the National Identity Card. Hence, any person born in Nigeria since the introduction of the NIN is required to be registered within sixty (60) days of his/her birth, or at any time after this period not exceeding one hundred and eighty (180) days, or any other period as the NIMC may specify from time to time by regulation[7]. For Nigerian citizens born outside the country, the NIMC Act does not specify a time frame within which they are to register and obtain the NIN but it should be noted that registration is also compulsory for this class. Hence, the NIMC has initiated the Diaspora Enrolment Programme and licenced some InfoTech companies who, working with foreign partners, are to carry out the enrolment of Nigerian adults and children in the Diaspora into the National Identity Database[8].

The NIN is required to be presented by registrable persons, before several basic transactions can be undertaken in Nigeria. Specifically, all registrable persons are required to state their NIN while engaging in transactions[9] including the following:

  • Application for, and issuance of a passport;
  • Opening of individual and/or personal bank accounts;
  • Purchase of insurance policies;
  • Purchase, transfer, and registration of interest in land (subject to the Land Use Act);
  • Transactions relating to pensions and Health Insurance Schemes;
  • Consumer credit transactions,
  • Payment of taxes;
  • Registration of voters; and
  • Transactions having social security implications.
  • Registration for, and provision and use of hospitality services;
  • Registration and licensing for, and use of health or medical services;
  • Application for the adoption of an infant, child or person under applicable laws;
  • Purchase and registration of aircrafts, ships, boats, motor vehicles and motorcycles;
  • Registration and use of aviation services by airline operators and customers;
  • Boarding of aircrafts, trains, commercial vehicles, ships and boats;
  • Purchase of travel tickets or tokens for air, rail, road and water transportation;
  • Acquisition, sale or transfer or transmission of shares or equities and other financial instruments;
  • Enrolment into primary, secondary and tertiary schools and continuous professional studies in Nigeria.
  • Registration of companies, sole proprietorships, partnerships and non-profit organisations and other post-incorporation documentation with the Corporate Affairs Commission; and
  • Filing and registration of criminal and civil actions in courts or other arbitration processes.

Specifically, Section 27(2) of the NIMC Act provides that any authority or organization to which a person applies to carry out any of the above listed transactions (or any other transaction as may be prescribed by the NIMC in a Federal Government Gazette), shall request such person to produce his National Identity Card or NIN. Thus, a person (individual or corporate) who violates any of the provisions of the NIMC Act or permits the carrying out of any transaction covered by the NIMC Act without a NIN, commits an offence punishable with various fines and terms of imprisonment (as appropriate) in line with the provisions of Sections 28, 29 and 30 of the NIMC Act.

Regulatory & Compliance Framework

The framework for the enforcement of compliance with the requirement of the NIN was first developed in 2015. The framework was reviewed by the NIMC in 2017, culminating in the release of the Mandatory Use of the National Identity Number Regulations, 2017 (the "NIN Mandatory Use Regulations"), published in the official gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria[10].

As provided in Section 4(1) of the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations, the NIMC is required to ensure strict compliance with the NIN requirement under the NIMC Act, NIN Mandatory Use Regulations and other regulations made pursuant to the NIMC Act, as well as Nigeria Biometrics Standards Regulations, 2017.

In furtherance of its resolve to emplace a formidable identity management system, the Federal Government of Nigeria ("FGN"), at the Federal Executive Council meeting of September 12, 2018, approved the immediate commencement of the implementation of a strategic roadmap for Digital Identity Ecosystem in Nigeria; necessitating full compliance with the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations.

In this regard, the NIMC issued a public notice specifying January 1, 2019, as the FGN-approved commencement date for the enforcement of the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations and the consequent application of appropriate sanctions and penalties for non-compliance. Consequently, all registrable persons are required to provide their NIN to be able to carry out the above-listed transactions (and any other transactions that the NIMC may determine by regulation) as from the stated date.

In accordance with the provisions of Sections 6 and 7 of the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations, the NIMC in exercise of its regulatory and enforcement powers, may:

a) Upon giving written notice of not less than 24 hours, have the right to conduct an audit on the state of affairs and operations of transactions or services carried out by applicable persons and entities;

b) Obtain an order of the Federal High Court to seal-off the premises or business place or shut down the identity database or stop further services by the defaulting person or entity;

c) Demand payment of a penalty as provided in the NIMC Act; and

d) Request the assistance of any law enforcement agency to enforce compliance with any directives issued under the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations.

Furthermore, the NIMC is empowered to impose administrative fines and sanctions, in addition to the penalties provided in the NIMC Act, on any person or entity who fails to comply with the provisions of the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations and other relevant regulations made pursuant to the NIMC Act.

Testing the Law

Pursuant to the objectives of the NIMC Act and the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations, the NIMC has commenced collection of the data and biometric information of registrable persons into the National Identity Database. Upon completion of registration, a transaction slip known as the National Identification Number Slip ("NIN Slip") is first issued to a registered person pending release of the National Identity Card. The NIN Slip serves as evidence of registration and bears the unique NIN of the registered person.

In a suit instituted in 2018 at the High Court of Anambra State of Nigeria (SUIT NO: 0/103/2018), the validity of the NIN Slip as a means of identification was tested. The plaintiff in the suit, a mobile telephone subscriber, had tendered her NIN Slip as a means of identification to the defendant, a mobile telecom operator in Nigeria, for the purposes of SIM-Swap/SIM replacement. The NIN Slip was rejected by the defendant on the ground that it is not a valid means of identification. Aggrieved by this decision, the plaintiff filed the suit and prayed the court to determine the issue of "whether in view of the extant laws/regulations the NIN Slip is a valid and sufficient means of identification in Nigeria for the purposes of transactions including SIM-Swap or replacement?"

In its response, the defendant contended that the NIN Slip is not a valid means of identification in Nigeria, having regards to relevant laws and regulations. In particular, it was argued that a subscriber is required to submit a "valid photo identification" for SIM replacement, as provided under the Nigerian Communications Commission's Guidelines on SIM Replacement ("NCC Guidelines") and that the NIN Slip is not included in the interpretation of "photo identification" in the NCC Guidelines.

In resolving the issue in favour of the plaintiff, the court on December 4, 2018, held that the NCC Guidelines do not contain an exhaustive list of items qualified as photo identification and is also inferior to the NIMC Act being a subsidiary legislation. Further, it was held that by the provisions of Section 27 and other relevant sections of the NIMC Act, what is required to be provided by a person to any authority or organization for the purposes of carrying out any transaction is the National Identity Card or the NIN. Thus, the production of the unique NIN is sufficient identification of an individual for the purposes of any transaction in Nigeria and consequently, the NIN Slip issued temporarily in lieu of the National Identity Card is a valid photo identification.

Meanwhile, in an appeal recently filed before the Supreme Court in the case of APC & Anor. v Marafa & 17 Ors. (SC. 377/2019), a preliminary objection was raised on the ground that, by the provisions of Section 1(1)(u) of the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations and the NIMC Act; the use of the NIN is a precondition for filing and registering criminal and civil actions in courts or other arbitration processes in Nigeria. In overruling the preliminary objection, the Supreme Court on May 24, 2019, held that Section 27 of the NIMC Act and its regulations are not part of the rules of the court and can therefore not apply to the processes filed there-in.

Comments

It is widely acknowledged that data is the new "oil" and Nigeria needs to take implementation of its Digital Identity Ecosystem seriously, in order to be at pace with the advanced and other emerging economies around the globe and be positioned to harness information technology for security and development purposes. It is our firm belief that the success of the policy of the FGN on mandatory use of the NIN will enhance the current administration's focus on economic development, adequate security and anti-corruption crusade.

However, the law is yet to settle and the processes fully institutionalized. For instance, whilst the decision of the High Court of Anambra State means that the NIN Slip is valid for use in lieu of the National Identity Card and thus enhances the powers of the NIMC to enforce compliance with relevant statutory provisions; we are aware that the defendant is currently on appeal. Whilst the NIMC has issued a press release supporting the decision of the High Court[11], we note that except the decision is reaffirmed by higher courts in the land, it will be difficult to enforce the law as there are many unregistered persons and registered persons with only the NIN Slip than those who have obtained the National Identity Card.

Again, the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the mandatory use of the NIN for registering and filing court processes potentially undermines the ability of the NIMC to enforce the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations in that regard. It is most likely other authorities and organizations will make the ruling a reference point for discountenancing the mandatory requirement of the NIN, as a precondition for providing services to registrable persons. As a way forward, it is recommended that the Federal Government intensifies efforts to create awareness on the importance of the NIN to the country and procure the endorsement of relevant stakeholders, government agencies and relevant industries. It is also advisable to procure relevant amendments to the NIMC Act, incorporating the salient provisions of the NIN Mandatory Use Regulations.


[1] National Identity Management Commission Act No. 23 of 2007

[2] Ibid, Section 5(a)

[3] Ibid, Section 5(d)

[4] Ibid, Section 16

[5] Second Schedule to the NIMC Act

[6] Ibid, section 5(f)

[7] Ibid, Section 18

[9] Ibid, Section 27. See also Section 1(1), Mandatory Use of the National Identity Number Regulations, 2017

[10] Government Notice No. 123 (Vol. 104, No. 121, Lagos, 13th November, 2017)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions