Why does Nigeria not have a unified database?

by | Mar 3, 2015

After my biometric registration with my bank for the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) exercise, it dawned on me that Nigeria’s banking sector was on the verge of having a unified database for commercial banks’ customers.

With the BVN, I have a unique identity to which every other bank accounts I operate are tied to. This means  I don’t have to register with every bank I operate an account with; what the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) might never achieve with the SIM Card registration process.

If you reside in Nigeria, you probably must have participated in not less than four data capturing processes in recent years, what with government agencies collecting the same set of data every time, including your biometrics.

Few years ago, The NCC mandated every GSM user to have their data and biometric captured for every lines they use – I registered five mobile lines, and each time I was asked the same set of questions. You can read my case study for the regulatory body of the telecom sector here.

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Another stop is the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) which has one of its mandate to be ‘Establishment, operation and management of the National Identity Management System (NIMS).

Since NIMC is saddled with the responsibility of establishing and maintaining a national identity database, we might want to ask why every other government agency or departments needs to collect my data directly from me, rather than just plugging into NIMC database.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) collected my data in 2011 yet, everyone on my street still had to register again in December 2014.

Finally, the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRA) is presently capturing data of every Lagosian. Not forgetting the new National Driver’s License which also requires biometrics.

With the numerous databases being maintained by various government agencies in the country, it appears all these agencies don’t trust each other. Or could it just be to add figures to their yearly annual budget? As I often joke, can Jack Bauer make anything of any of the various databases?

And there doesn’t appear to be any verification exercise in place for any of the databases. I can easily give my residence to be house number 8 to MTN, 2 to Airtel, 16 to LASRA or maybe house number 3 on another street to NIMC, with none of the agencies making effort to verify my data.

You probably know some of the reasons why Nigeria does not have a unified database. Do share using the comment section below.

Image Credit: Aldous Voice

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Yinka Awosanya
Yinka Awosanya

Mobile & African Tech Enthusiast │ Data Analyst │ Music


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Abimbola Sojimi
Abimbola Sojimi
7 years ago

I’ve pondered over this question over the last couple of months. I don’t think it’s lack of trust. There is no coordinated identity management body. Even NIMC is just one of many bodies capturing biometrics. The banks at least have a grip by unifying. TELCOs should take a cue…..

Farida Adamu
Farida Adamu
Reply to  oluSunYAh
5 years ago

Exactly! I’m guilty of this. Not that guilty though lol, I was actually experimenting. I have 3 SIM cards with different credentials yet same thumbprint. All the registrations were successful. I have two temporary voter cards with different information. So many have multiple identities because nobody is verifying anything.

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