‘Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.’
For some of us, the above quote by respected Swiss-born philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau is evergreen! It is a protest against the shortcomings of the Social Contract.
In and of itself, the social contract is a great thing. But many countries, including Nigeria, have convoluted the basic tenets of this theory, especially as regards equality before the law. The NIMC card phenomenon is just one of those things that prove Rousseau was right.
Weeks ago, I got a text message from a financial institution that it was then mandatory to provide an NIMC card or NIN to access some services. I was like: what the heck? What happened to the national passport and other IDs?
‘Everywhere in chains’
While I’m not a fan of anarchy, it is very uncomfortable how the government that should promote well being is more interested in punishing. The ideals of the social contract have morphed into something else.
Now, you may wonder what could be harmful in something as simple as the NIMC card.
To be fair, having a national identity database is an awesome idea. But the ultimate end around here, in my own view, is mostly to keep the ‘ordinary man’ in chains when everyone ought to be treated equally. Talk about a lopsided means of fighting fraud and criminality.
People get asked from time to time to undergo one form of mandatory or necessary registration or another. These individuals leave more important things to do these registrations. What happens in the end? Nothing. You just have to wait until the next one comes along.
Back in 2002-03, there was registration for a national ID card. That was a failure, and no apology for saying that.
Since then, we have seen others, including residency registration, SIM registration, and biometric verification number (BVN) registration. There is also that of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which is in focus here. Talk about too much personal information floating around.
Where are the cards?
I was particularly displeased about the message that informed me about the mandatory use of NIMC card. This is because this card project has been largely a failure. No, don’t blame me; my opinion is shaped by how I’m affected.
I registered for the card over three years ago, but I don’t have it yet. I checked again today and got the usual message of card not ready. All I have is the NIN.
It turned out my case isn’t the worst. I found out via the NIMC’s Twitter account a comment by a user who claimed to have registered back in 2013 but is yet to get his or her card.
As far as I am concerned, the NIMC card is not a ready product. An NIMC official told the Daily Trust of the challenges the agency was facing regarding card production. So, why make its use mandatory now?
But I should cut the NIMC a bit of slack because the text message I received suggested the slip provided at registration may be accepted in banks. Mine was not accepted back in 2016, though. I was forced to cough out a huge sum for a passport after my account got blocked.
Much ado about nothing
No, no, I’m not talking about the play by the legendary playwright William Shakespeare. I mean the NIMC card and the like have proven to be unnecessary fuss, a travesty.
In the ideal world, such projects should help to curb corruption and criminality, but that’s obviously not the case here. We keep hearing about all kinds of evil and deprave behaviours that availability of identity information should ordinarily help guard against.
Yes, these measures may help expose fraudulent and potentially harmful activities. But that is only if appropriate punitive actions are taken when such activities or actions are exposed. Or what’s the use of telling me you caught someone embezzling money without commensurate legal penalty?
These folks need to stop disturbing us with all this ‘mandatory this, mandatory that.’ As long as people like me are concerned, this is a partial legal system that is effective and active only against the ordinary man.