President Goodluck Jonathan had on August 28, 2014, heralded the official launch of the eID card pilot scheme. As part of the pilot phase, the Nigeria Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has started to issue identity cards with MasterCards’s electronic functionality to 13 million Nigerians. This initiative is the largest rollout of a biometric-based verification card with an electronic payment solution in the country and the broadest financial inclusion program in Africa.
The eID card forms a key component of the Nigerian Identity Management System, deployed by NIMC as part of its mandate to create, maintain and operate the country’s first central National Identity Database and provide proof of identity to Nigerians 16 years and older.
With 13 applications, including MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology and Cryptovision’s biometric identification technology, the eID card will provide millions of Nigerians – the majority of whom have never had access to a banking product – with the security, convenience and reliability of electronic payments.
Contrary to speculations that the national electronic identity (eID) card, currently being issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is fraught with security breaches, the commission has said it would instead give the cards, and card bearers international recognition and acceptance, since the cards also function as payment cards.
Director-General of NIMC, Chris Onyemenam, who made the clarification in a media briefing on Monday in Lagos, described the speculations as false, insisting that the card bearers will enjoy international recognition since MasterCard is a global brand with integrity and acceptability across the globe.
‘The introduction of MasterCard’s logo on the national eID card is an advancement in technology on the part of NIMC in ensuring that the country’s identity card is recognised locally and globally as payment card. Any suggestion that MasterCard or any forign body will gain access to the database is pure fiction not backed up with evidence,’ Onyemenam said.
Reacting to speculations that the introduction of MasterCard’s logo constitutes national breach, since part of the in-built technologies of the card are controlled by MasterCard, thus exposing the database of Nigeria to a foreign company, Onyemenam said the card contains 13 applets, which are security features, and that MasterCard, a technology company, controls only one of the security features, which is the personal identity number (PIN) authentication in facilitating financial transactions on the card as MasterCard does not and will never have access to any database. MasterCard’s prepaid technology is just one of the card’s 13 different applications, five of which are currently live. MasterCard’s payments technology is stored securely and separately from the other applets, including the card’s identification applet. In fact, there is a firewall between the payment applet and all the other applets, so, not even a Point of Sale terminal or ATM can access the secure data that is protected on certain parts of the card.
NIMC is the custodian of the National Identity Database and would be contravening so many national security laws if it ever handed access to the National Database to local or foreign company or organisation.
The Division President, Sub-Saharan Africa of MasterCard, Mr. Daniel Monehin also shared that MasterCard does not know the personal details of the cardholder. In his words,’ MasterCard is not a credit company, and not an identity company, but a technology company that is facilitating authenticity in every financial transaction carried out on the card’. He added, ‘MasterCard is providing the payments technology on the National eID Card that enables cardholders to make safe and secure electronic payments and transact electronically in Nigeria and across the border’.
On the choice of MasterCard as the technology payment provider for the National eID pilot program, MasterCard presented its payment solution and business proposal to NIMC for the National eID Card business together with other card schemes and companies. The three popular schemes – approved and licensed by the Central Bank to operate in Nigeria and with significant business relationships with the Nigerian deposit money banks – were invited to submit proposals to NIMC. The most responsive and willing vendor was MasterCard. NIMC announced its selection of MasterCard as the payments technology provider for the Nigerian National eID pilot program in May 2013 at the World Economic Forum on Africa, which was held in South Africa.
The National eID Card is a chip and pin card certified according to the EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa) standard for globally interoperable, secure payments, which is mandated by the government of Nigeria, and it is approved and licenced by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The key element of EMV involves including dynamic digital data in every transaction. This makes these types of transactions extremely secure and reduces the risk of fraud. When a consumer uses an EMVenabled card to pay at an EMV terminal, it can be instantly identified as an authentic, approved payment instrument belonging to that consumer through a process called dynamic authentication.
When used with a PIN (Personal Identification Number), the chip verifies that the consumer is indeed holding his or her own payment card.
About the Author:
Tony Ajah is a business growth strategist, and the Principal Strategist, TA Strategic Solutions, a Lagos-based firm that is into business growth and development. firstname.lastname@example.org