Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is calling on his government’s various agencies to start sharing biometric data. He asserts that the duplicate efforts of numerous agencies are wasteful, and that citizens’ biometric data could be efficiently managed centrally by the National Population Commission.
Biometric technology has indeed enjoyed quite a bit of popularity in the country. One of Nigeria’s states, Kaduna, recently announced that it would start using biometric authentication to verify the identities of civil servants, and biometric technology was deployed on a national scale in the country’s election this spring for voter authentication. And, as a This Day article points out, there are numerous government agencies independently collecting biometric data from citizens, including the Nigeria Immigration Service, the National Population Commission, the Federal Road Safety Corps, and the Nigeria Police; so President Buhari’s call for centralization appears to make a lot of sense, especially given that the people of Nigeria have demonstrated signs of fatigue with having to continually provide this data.
But, as This Day points out, the country’s previous president, Goodluck Jonathan, had also called for the same measure, and that directive was largely ignored by the various government agencies concerned. It’s a problem that has some echoes in other countries’ government-driven deployments, as in the case of foot-dragging on the part of India’s Defence Ministry in its implementation of biometric attendance tracking for employees. Such cases help to illustrate that while biometric technologies can offer major benefits to governments implementing them, strong leadership is needed in their deployment in order to ensure the systems’ effectiveness.
August 19, 2015 – by Alex Perala