Recently, we’ve been witnessing several media campaigns urging Nigerians to register with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) as established by Act No. 23 of 2007. Let’s discourse how this initiative can help in addressing identity theft in Nigeria.
  
Economists seem to be at one on the point; a viable business hub is a key index in assessing the economic development of a nation’s economy. Advanced and developing economies have since discovered the use of information technology tools as a major component in aiding effective service delivery and payment systems. In Nigeria, we’re familiar with online payment platforms – Quickteller, Virtual Terminal Network, PocketMoni, InterSwitch – as well as the use of automated teller machines (ATM) in facilitating e-commerce. But with the increased flexibility in handling transactions comes the added cyber challenge of identity theft or credit card theft. 
Let’s think of identity theft as the unauthorized procurement and use of the personal information of another for illicit purposes. This will include the theft of ATM/credit card details, cloning of commercial websites, unsolicited emails with links to phishing websites and so on. The lack of a central and unique electronic identification system has made it virtually impossible to authenticate a specific user in a uniform fashion across services/platforms. The key point to note here is the lack of a central database system. Thus, most cyber frauds of this nature have been largely undetected as it’s perpetrators can take on different identities on as many platforms as possible. And as shown last week, the current stage of criminal legislations in the country leaves much to be desired.[1]
 
It is in this context that we reckon the NIMC Act as an option in dealing with some threats to our ICT infrastructures and a way out in dealing with identity theft. The Commission was established to “establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria…”[2]  It is believed that a sustainable and secure e-service/payment platform in Nigeria can be realized with the implementation of an enhanced identity management system with the capability to securely and reliably verify and authenticate the identities of individuals across the country. A central database with useful information, including biometric data capture and authentication will curb the issue of identity theft. All these and more come within the purview of the Commission’s mandate.
Of course, the gains of such a system transcends the scope of our discussion but you see the line. Currently in Nigeria, certain businesses are wary in using e-payment processors and channels as a result of the activities of cyber criminals. A reliable central database with several authentication layers will make it harder to perpetrate identity theft and bolster consumer confidence in the use of technology tools in commercial transactions in Nigeria.
Let’s do this again next week.


[1]For more details see Arowosaiye Y. I, “The New Phenomenon of Phishing, Credit Card Fraud, Identity Theft, Internet Piracy and Nigerian Criminal Law” available at   http://www.unilorin.edu.ng/publications/arowosayeyi/THE_NEW_PHENOMENON_OF_PHISHING.pdfaccessed 14/01/2013
[2]See www.nimc.gov.ng for more details

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