Federal Republic of MasterCard

There is no better illustration of the Nigerian tragedy than the way it has for almost four decades tried unsuccessfully to do something as simple as giving its nationals identity cards. It has been a tale of one scam after another as almost every administration comes with its own smart alecs who end up swindling the people in the name of identity card. The latest in this long-running drama of shame is that some “transformation ambassadors” have convinced President Goodluck Jonathan that, just like he “brought Facebook to Nigeria”, he must give Nigerians the electronic identification card (e-ID) with which they can withdraw money even when they may not have bank accounts!

What is particularly distressing is that in the last five years, we have witnessed multiple data collections by agencies of government all of which were primarily targeted at revenue generation. From the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the National Communications Commission (NCC), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the police and several other institutions, bio-metric data collection has been the biggest racket with which Nigerians are being fleeced by people in government and their collaborators in the private sector. But the latest National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) gambit in collaboration with MasterCard takes the cake.

According to Public affairs commentator, Mr. Nengak Daniel Gondyi,“Mastercard will need to confess if they have such branding anywhere else in the world. To me, it is like having the barber stamp his logo permanently on your forehead after a haircut. We all know that the Nigeria Immigration Service for example works closely with banks but there is no logo on our passports save the coat of arms of Nigeria. Why is the National ID Card different?”

Last weekend, my friend, Jide Iyaniwura, an industry expert who was head of Programme Implementation for IBM EMEA and runs a business that delivers technology to a number of UK local government authorities, sent me a link so I can understand the wider implications of what this administration has just done. It is the “National Cyber Security Framework Manual”, a NATO publication that details the considerations for national projects, especially those involving the data of citizens: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/hathaway-klimburg-nato-manual-ch-1.pdf

While the 44-page document shows why serious nations would balk at subjecting their citizens into the kind of agreement we have entered into with MasterCard, there are several questions begging for answers about this transaction that is still shrouded in secrecy and may have violated the public procurement law. Even though I have heard the mumbo jumbo from those who imagine they can call a dog a monkey for us, what is clear to discerning Nigerians is that some fat cats have, in the name of e-ID, done a fast deal that cheapens our country in the eyes of the civilized world and may also further compromise our national security.


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