In a significant development, the Federal Government of Nigeria has announced that commercial banks in the country can now issue citizens with a debit card that doubles as their national identity card at no additional cost. This decision was made during a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, revealed that the approval was based on a memo from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) allowing banks to print multipurpose debit cards that also serve as national identity cards.
Optional NIN Card and Multipurpose Card:
According to Prof. Pantami, although the National Identity Number (NIN) is mandatory for Nigerian citizens and legal residents, possessing a printed card is optional as per the NIMC Act of 2007. However, there has been a growing demand for physical identity cards, particularly from citizens in rural areas. To address this, NIMC has introduced a smart ID card that can be downloaded from the NIMC app. However, the accessibility of the smart card for people in rural communities has posed challenges.
Partnership with Central Bank and No Additional Cost:
To make it more convenient for citizens, NIMC has partnered with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Under this agreement, interested individuals can visit their respective banks to request a multipurpose card that combines their national identity card and their bank card (such as Mastercard or Visa) on the same physical card. The Minister emphasized that this service will be provided to citizens at no extra cost.
Privacy and Confidentiality:
To safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of card applicants, NIMC and the Central Bank have signed a nondisclosure agreement. This agreement ensures that personal information shared during the application process will be protected and handled with utmost care. Banks will apply online to NIMC, cross-checking and verifying the data in their database against the NIMC database. Once the alignment is confirmed, the card will be printed immediately.
Automated System for NIN-SIM Integration:
In addition to the multipurpose card initiative, the Federal Executive Council also approved a memo proposing the deployment of an automated system to integrate NINs with individual SIM cards. This system aims to streamline the process of linking NINs with SIM cards and enhance the overall implementation of the NIN-SIM policy. By simplifying the process, it will facilitate SIM replacement for Nigerians and legal residents, while also ensuring a more accurate and consolidated database.
The Nigerian government’s decision to allow commercial banks to issue citizens with dual-purpose debit cards and national identity cards demonstrates its commitment to digital transformation and simplifying essential services. This move will provide citizens with greater convenience, especially in rural areas where accessibility to physical identity cards has been challenging. With the partnership between NIMC and the Central Bank, citizens can easily obtain a multipurpose card at their banks without incurring any additional costs. Furthermore, the introduction of an automated system for NIN-SIM integration will streamline processes and enhance the implementation of the NIN-SIM policy. These initiatives signify positive steps towards improving financial and digital inclusion while ensuring privacy and data protection for Nigerian citizens.