Nigerians Express Concern Over New e-ID Card Project.
"Finally!" was the first word that popped into my head upon reading the supposed good news. Nigerians were soon to join the rest of the I.D. carrying world, and something I’d considered to be a privilege for others was no longer going to be so.
Whilst living in South Africa, I vividly remember seeing my friends turning 16 and being excited to apply and receive their national I.D. cards and feeling a pang of jealousy hit me simply because I do the same. Fast forward a few years later to my college days when I’d have to carry around my passport and use it as a form of ID when entering places that carded. Not only was it a slight form of embarrassment, but such outings were always plagued with the fear that I’d lose my passport and have to go through the strenuous and costly process of applying for a new one AND have to get all my necessary visa documents in order. No longer wanting this to be an ordeal I’d have to undergo, I was able to add some normalcy to my life after applying for and receiving a New York Learner’s Permit. For the first time, at age 20, I finally got to be part of the I.D. carrying public - a small step for mankind, a giant leap for yours truly.
Now, thanks to a new scheme unveiled by President Goodluck Jonathan, no longer will Nigerian nationals have only one option (outside of a driving license) when it comes to a valid government issued form of identification. Something I’m sure many other Nigerians aside from me welcome, especially after the failure of a plan to introduce ID cards into Nigeria some years ago.
However, this new national ID is not simply a form of valid photo identification. It seems as though the Nigerian government is incapable of creating such a project without monetary backing from one of the world’s largest multinational financial services companies. What is supposed to be a regular ID card instead looks like a debit or credit card with the MasterCard logo printed boldly on the back. This electronic ID card will also serve as a means of electronic payment in order to make banking and financial services available to the entire population. In a country known for 419 schemes and rife with corruption, some say these new cards will give Nigerians a sense of legitimacy when carrying out financial transactions and using services that require ID.
Sounds appealing and convenient right? Well, perhaps, if you take away the fact that the biometrics data of every e-ID holder will be shared and made available to MasterCard, an American firm. All Nigerian e-ID card bearers will automatically become customers of MasterCard – a profit-driven company. This has already caused many Nigerians to express outrage at the government for selling out Nigerians to a foreign company.
Shehu Sani of the Civil Rights in government expressed his opposition to this project saying, “The new ID card with a MasterCard logo does not represent an identity of a Nigerian. It simply represents a stamped ownership of a Nigerian by an American company. It is reminiscent of the logo pasted on the bodies of African salves transported across the Atlantic.” Whilst Nigeria would not be the first country to have such a program, a country like Malaysia did so but using its own resources and technologies, not through outsourcing and making available the information of their citizens to a foreign financial company.
What’s also interesting is the timing of this announcement - right when the US has pledged to actively assist Nigeria in combating Boko Haram and terrorism in the country.
Whilst it may take a while for this new system to be adopted, these concerns expressed by several Nigerians are legitimate and should be addressed before this project becomes a nationwide affair. At the very least, Nigerians should be given the option of whether or not they would like to join the MasterCard element of the program.
(image via BBC)
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