Banking and identity are converging in Nigeria, where the government has told commercial banks to start issuing debit cards that can also serve as a national ID document.
As reported by The Cable Nigeria, the move passed following a memo from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) giving banks permission to provide the combined banking and national identity cards. Approval from the federal executive council, and a partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), formalized the process.
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, said the change is in response to increased demand for identity cards. Since 2007, it has been mandatory for Nigerian citizens to have a national identity number. Physical ID cards are optional, and a mobile digital ID card is available through an app. But Pantamia said that, especially in rural communities, people prefer physical cards.
“To ease the difficulty, NIMC has partnered with the CBN so citizens who are interested in having a card at hand can easily go to the relevant banks,” Pantania said, during a media briefing. “The bank is permitted to print the card along with either a Mastercard or Visa card. So, when you apply for a card at your bank, you can indicate that ‘I want this card to serve multiple purposes where it will serve as my bank card and also my national identity card’.”
The program comes with no additional costs for applicants, and a shared nondisclosure agreement to keep customers’ data private and secure.
In tandem with the bank card announcement, Pantami confirmed that the federal executive council also agreed to a proposal for an automated system to unify national identity numbers with individual SIM cards. The idea has caused controversy in the past, and prior attempts have stalled.
Like some other African nations, Nigeria has seen rapid and at times disruptive change in the personal and national ID and authentication space. Earlier this month, the Central Bank announced that any bank accounts not linked to a biometric Bank Verification Number (BVN) would be shut down within 30 days.