New electronic ID cards in Nigeria

System will become official database for government

Nigeria has launched a national biometric identification card which will in future to used for health care, financial services (including taxes and pensions), driving licences and voter registration for the 2019 general election.

The ID card is designed to be the primary database for government departments and can also be used to make electronic payments via MasterCard.

The card – which features a person's photograph, name, age and unique ID number – is described by Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan as "not only a means of certifying your identity, but also a personal database repository and payment card."

Behind the introduction of the ambitious scheme is the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) which plans to consolidate the data for use in several government databases such as those for driving licences, voter registration, health insurance, taxes and pensions. The NIMC will issue 13 million Nigerians with cards during the first phase of the scheme which will eventually comprise over 100 million cards.

There are enrollment centres across Nigeria and those obtaining cards will have 10 fingerprints taken as well as an iris scan, which will be used in the credit-card style chip. The card is free although if lost there is a replacement fee, and it will be available to all residents of the country for more than two years.

MasterCard said it hopes that the system will provide financial services access to the millions of Nigerians, aged 16 or over, who are without bank accounts. However some Nigerians resent their symbol of national identity being branded with an American company's logo and claim that the deal would effectively hand over all adult Nigerians as compulsory customers of MasterCard. Analysts have also expressed concerns that the system could encounter the same problems of corruption which led to the failed introduction of a similar scheme in Nigeria 10 years ago. For full details see NIMC website.