Friday, August 29, 2014

Nigerians outraged at new government issued electronic ID cards branded with Master Card

The new Nigerian National Identity Cards launched Thursday by President Goodluck Jonathan, with branded logo of the American firm, MasterCard, have sparked outrage across the country amid fears of serious security and economic breach, with many Nigerians calling for an immediate stoppage of the deal.

Nigerians expressed shock and fury Thursday at how the Nigerian Government, through the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, would surrender a symbol of national sovereignty and pride to a foreign commercial organisation by not only sharing the biometrics of 170 million Nigerian to the firm but by also allowing the firm to boldly engrave its insignia on the IDs.

Many Nigerians raised the alarm over the implications of the agreement in an age that has seen intense data surveillance by the National Security Agency of the United States of America, Mastercard’s home country.

One commentator said allowing MasterCard’s emblem on the Nigerian National ID Card could only compare to the trans-Atlantic slave trade abolished in the nineteenth century. “The new ID card with a MasterCard logo does not represent an identity of a Nigerian.

It simply represents a stamped ownership of a Nigerian by an American company,” said Shehu Sani of the Civil Rights Congress. “It is reminiscent of the logo pasted on the bodies of African slaves transported across the Atlantic.” At the launching Thursday, the Nigerian Identity Management Commission said the cards, designed to also allow handlers effect payments and other financial transactions, will be issued to 13 million Nigerians.

At the completion of the pilot phase of the program, 100 million cards would have been issued, the commission said, describing the move as the “broadest financial inclusion program in Africa”. The cards will be issued to Nigerians, 16 years and older, and are expected to serve as voting cards in the 2019 elections.

President Jonathan, who flagged off the rollout, praised the outcome of a partnership between NIMC, MasterCard and Access Bank. “The card is not only a means of certifying your identity, but also a personal database repository and payment card, all in your pocket,” Mr. Jonathan said.

Under the partnership, the NIMC is the project leader, MasterCard provides payments technology, while Unified Payment Services Limited is payments processor. Cryptovision is the Public Key Infrastructure and Trust Services Provider, and the pilot issuing bank is Access Bank Plc.

The Identity Management Commission said it was working with other government agencies to harmonize all identity databases including the Driver’s License, Voter Registration, Health Insurance, Tax, SIM and the National Pension Commission into a single, shared services platform.

For a National ID card project jinxed for decades due to corruption and mismanagement, Nigerians welcomed what seemed like a breakthrough this time, several years after the first attempt at a national Identity Card project ended in fiasco.

But the optimism waned after it became clear Thursday the new ID cards, a key instrument recognised by the federal constitution, will not only bear the Coat of Arms and the Nigerian colours of green white green, but also the logo of MasterCard, a profit-driven private entity. “Nigeria’s colours and coat of arms is what should be there.

It is not an opportunity for advert for promoting companies,” said Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director Centre for Social Justice. “As far as we are concerned it cannot stand. It is not worth it if that’s what they have done.” Beyond national pride, many Nigerians spoke of the dire economic and security implications for Nigeria. “Clearly, there are National Security implication,” said Nasir El-Rufai, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. “All these data go to the American payment platform.” Mr. El-Rufai recalled that Malaysia was the first country to implement a general multipurpose ID card and that the country did so with its own resources and technology to protect its citizens.

Economically, analysts say, the deal also hands over all adult Nigerians as direct and compulsory customers of MasterCard. The US-based firm appeared so elated at the outcome of the contract that by Thursday, it hired a media consultant, African Media Agency, to publicise the landmark deal all over the world. MasterCard could not be reached immediately for comments.

Details of the partnership between the NIMC and MasterCard were unclear as of Friday. A former senior government official, well briefed about the process, said the Nigerian government may have adopted the Public Private Partnership model for the project, with MasterCard underwriting part of the cost of the deal.

Still, the former official, who asked not to be named, said it was unbelievable that Nigeria could not insist on fully funding such a project at any cost, considering its strategic importance to its sovereignty.

“It’s so scandalous that there are countries you present this to and they will be confused,” the official said. “I have never seen this done anywhere in the world.”

The Nigerian Identity Management Commission, NIMC, refused to comment on the concerns.
When contacted by PREMIUM TIMES late Thursday, a spokesperson dismissed the concern raised by our reporter.

“What is wrong with that (displaying MasterCard’s logo on the IDs)?” asked Ben Alofoje, the Assistant Director/Head Research and Strategy, who is the designated media person for the project.

A PREMIUM TIMES reader, Ola Onanugaola, said of the project, “Good idea but bad implementation. Why do we have to brand the e-ID card? Are these people aware of the huge economic and security implications of the branding. “Any country population database/information is too vital to be attached to any non-governmental organisation.”

Premium Times

Related story: Electronic ID cards launched in Nigeria

Nigeria reinstates 16,000 sacked doctors

The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, has announced the reinstatement of the over 16, 000 resident doctors sacked on August 13 .

The spokesperson to the Minister, Dan Nwomeh, in a tweet said the doctors reinstatement became yesterday (Thursday).

The resident doctors make up 70 per cent of the workforce in government’s hospitals.
The doctors were sacked after a month-long strike by the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, an association of all medical practitioners in Nigeria.

The doctors had been on indefinite strike following the non compliance of their “24 minimum demands ” by the Nigerian government. However, the NMA strike was called off on Sunday.

The NMA on calling off the strike gave the government condition that all sack resident doctors must be reinstated without punitive measures.

Mr. Nwomeh said the Federal Government has lifed the suspension of the Residency Training Programme, RTP in all federal hospitals.

This programme sees the resident doctors through their career in becoming consultants.
Following the lift of the suspension of the RTP all Chief Medical Directors, CMDs and Medical Directors, MDs of training centers have been directed to issue letters of reinstatement to the resident doctors.

Mr. Nwomeh said the letters will enable the doctors resume work. He also quoted the government as urging the reinstated doctors to view the reinstatement as a sign of goodwill by the administration.

He asked them to put greater commitment and dedication to their duties.

Premium Times

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Electronic ID cards launched in Nigeria

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday launched a national electronic identity card scheme, which backers said would boost access to financial and government services in Africa's most populous nation.

The head of state was issued with his own card, which features a credit card-style chip with personal as well as biometric data and doubles up as a prepaid charge and debit card.

A number of Nigerian government agencies, from the police to the Independent National Electoral Commission, have embarked on their own separate ID card schemes.

But Jonathan said the plan was to eventually include details such as driving licence, health insurance, tax and pension information on the single card.

“The regime of duplication of biometric databases must now have to give way to harmonisation and unification with the e-ID scheme, which shall be the primary database,” he told reporters.

Only 32 percent of Nigeria's adult population are thought to have bank accounts, according to a 2012 study.

Nigeria's central bank has been pushing for a move away from cash to electronic payments and has tested a scheme in the financial capital, Lagos, with the help of private partners.

But the pilot project has not been plain sailing, with retailers and customers often facing frequent power supply and connectivity problems that slowed down transactions.

The cards will be available initially to Nigerians aged 16 and older and all residents in the country for more than two years.

Cardholders will be given a unique national identification number and have to provide fingerprint data, a photo and digital signature to cut the risk of fraud and embezzlement.

The scheme has so far cost about seven billion naira ($42 million), according to the National Identity Management Commission.

Financial services firm MasterCard, the scheme's payment technology provider, said 13 million cards would be available in the first phase, with more than 100 million to be issued in total.

“Nigeria is ready for this,” the firm's head of Sub-Saharan African operations, Daniel Mohin, told AFP.

“Nigeria has been left out of electronic financial payment for decades but now Nigeria is saying we want to take our rightful place in payment. There has not been a project of this magnitude... that's been rolled out at this scale.”

Africa's most populous nation has an unenviable reputation for fraud, particularly involving financial transactions.

But Monehin said the card was “secured with the best form of security that is available”.

Independent Online

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Doctor dies of Ebola in Port Harcourt

A doctor in Nigeria's oil industry hub of Port Harcourt has died from Ebola fever, after he was infected by man linked to the first case in Africa's most populous country, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Heath Ministry spokesman Dan Nwomeh said on his Twitter feed that the doctor had treated a primary contact of Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian who brought Ebola to Lagos. His death brings the number of Ebola fatalities in Nigeria to 6.

The total number of recorded cases had risen by two to 15, Nwomeh said, the other one being the wife of the doctor who is showing Ebola symptoms and whose test results are awaited.

Port Harcourt lies at the heart of Nigeria's two million barrels per day oil industry, Africa's biggest, and is a hub for expatriate workers in major international oil companies.

Nwomeh said 70 contacts of the doctor were now under surveillance in Port Harcourt.

It was not immediately clear what impact the arrival of Ebola would have on oil operations. The majors operating in Nigeria have historically been comfortable with a fair degree of risk in the oil producing Niger Delta, including attacks on oil installations and rampant kidnapping of expatriates.

The news came two days after Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said authorities had "thus far contained" the Ebola outbreak in Africa's largest economy, with only one case left being treated in an isolation ward in Lagos.

All Nigerian cases have been direct or indirect contacts of Sawyer, who collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport on July 25 and later died but was treated before anyone knew what he had.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has taken 1,552 lives out of 3,069 known cases in four countries and "continues to accelerate", the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.


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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shell on the verge of selling Nigeria oil fields for $5bn

European oil major Royal Dutch Shell is moving ahead with plans to sell a number of its Nigerian oilfields as it ploughs ahead with planned asset sales.

The Anglo-Dutch firm is leading a consortium that is close to selling a cluster of oilfields that include the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, for around $5bn (£3bn, €3.8bn,) according to the Financial Times newspaper.

The move is the latest attempt by a western oil company to pull out from the restive Delta region and the Nigerian market amid recurring incidents of infrastructure sabotage that have caused billions of dollars' worth of damage.

A deal is expected to be finalised in the next few weeks and the total figure for the sale could still change.

Shell "has signed sales and purchase agreements for some of the oil mining leases but not all that we are seeking to divest", Shell said in a statement. "The assets under consideration are OMLs 18, 24, 25, 29 and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, but the process has not yet concluded."

Shell has already sold off around $8bn worth of assets this year after it announced plans to sell around $15bn worth of assets through 2015.

Indigenous oil companies have expanded in Nigeria in recent years, capitalising on a government plan to boost domestic control over the oil industry.

Shell has faced long-running criticism from human rights groups over its oil production operations in Nigeria.

The company had not taken effective measures to restore the damaged environment in the Niger Delta after oil production caused contamination of the water there, Amnesty International reported in August.


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