Nigeria, dear native land!

National Identity Card cum CCTV’s

In the Punch article dated January 20, 2014 and titled “National Identity Card: A beautiful step forward”, I had commended the initiative of the Federal Government regarding the plan to bring into reality the usage of a functional Identity card. Such a card was not only to serve for identification purposes but also as some sort of social security card to which all financial transactions could be tied, as practiced in many developed countries.

Maybe the importance of such an initiative is not quite obvious, but they are indeed many: from enhancing an efficient, modern and professional commercial system in the country, to more practical exigencies like security, health scheme administration, pension scheme administration etc. It is but left to the fertile mind of any modern day entrepreneur or government parastatal to realize this idea is actually a haven of opportunities.

Now that the scheduled roll-out date of these smart cards is approaching (December 2014), it is important to remind the National Identity Management Commission that all eyes are on it, expectantly. Given the fact that we have had an unsuccessful go at this initiative in the past, and given the fact that (unfortunately) many great initiatives in the country have indeed turned out to be more of talks and white elephants, it is the ardent desire of the author – a desire representative of that of millions of citizens – that this all-important initiative be successfully brought to a completion come December 2014.

Much more than a mere revisit to this issue, the theme has come to my mind anew sequel to the resolution of the House of Representatives to probe the failure of the $470 million CCTV camera projects in Abuja and Lagos. That is quite commendable. This is without even digressing to the issue of how much the handlers of these CCTV projects can be properly considered as formal cooperators in the security situation which the country is now facing.

But much more on point, the honourable house has rightly recognized that the shameful rise in the stealing of travelers’ baggage and pilfering of their belongings in our airports could have been efficiently dealt with if these projects had been executed to plan. It is quite pathetic that the “first and last contact points” of travelers into our country are being turned to spots of nightmares and agony for visitors and citizens alike.

It is even more disturbing, as the House noted, that the security operatives who are supposed to prevent such crimes now specialize in the same, knowing very well that neither the CCTV cameras nor any other protective measures are functional. Such security operatives equally engage in harassment and extortion of travelers, making the thoughts of passing through Nigerian airports a nightmare, itself a most dirty blight on the name of our nation.  I am however rest assured that this is only another test of our will to rise up and further the on-going reforms and changes in the country.

But much as the observation and resolve of the House to probe this dirt is apposite (and which we hope so much that the men of character and repute in the house would bring to a fruitful execution), CCTV’s and all other security measures together form just a single pedal on the cycle of security and statistical administration. The other pedal is a dependable and vibrant database through which identified crimes on these CCTVs can be adequately traced to their perpetrators. Of what use are CCTV’s which capture crimes if the criminals cannot be located? Again we can cast our mind back to the thorny issue of the hundreds of faceless terrorists now making life miserable for us all in order to better understand that point.

Thus we are led back to the same need for a dependable, electronic card in the country which would serve not only as a platform for financial and administrative transactions, but also as a means of identification when and as necessary.

The aim and imploration of the author, in the name of millions of well-meaning citizens, is for the federal government, through her appropriate arms, to ensure not only a conclusive investigation and re-execution of the CCTV projects, but to ensure that her promise of a fully functional Identity Card truly rolls out come December 2014. The National Identity Management Commission, I believe must be working hard on this. May we gratefully see the fruits of your labour by December!

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