A Federal Government committee has recommended the setting up of a National Criminal Information Management and a National Criminal DNA Laboratory by Nigeria.
To be fashioned after the INTERPOL, the aim is to help the country in keeping track of criminal records of its citizens, criminal investigations and the administration of criminal justice in the country.
It is part of the measures being taken by the government in its bid to reverse the immigrant visa restrictions slammed on Nigeria by the United States Government in January this year.
The committee, known as Citizen Data Management and Harmonisation, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as soon as the visa ban came into full effect last February.
The panel, which was headed by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, submitted its report to Buhari in Abuja on Thursday.
The report dealt essentially with all the security concerns raised by the US about Nigeria and other countries that fell into the restriction list and recommendations on how to develop and maintain a national criminal data system.
Among the main tasks was to “review the status of Nigeria’s numerous citizen identification data, including biometrics, held by different ministries, departments and agencies, and propose strategies for the harmonisation of same.”
Aregbesola told the President that some progress had been achieved in meeting the demands of the US so that the visa restrictions could be lifted.
He added, “It is our hope that the findings, strategies and implementation plans proffered, if fully implemented, will expedite the lifting of the visa restrictions while bequeathing to the nation an enduring identity management system.”
Buhari, who was elated over the speed with which the committee dispensed the assignment, asked Nigerians for patience to enable the government to implement the recommendations.
He said, “I also note the progress made by Nigeria towards the removal of the visa restrictions as two out of the six areas of concern raised by the United States had been fully addressed, two are substantially satisfied while some progress is being made on the remaining two.
“I am delighted that this progress, especially the uploading of Lost and Stolen Passport and Travel Documents has been acknowledged by the United States Government.”
Commenting on the importance of citizen data management, the President said it would help in development planning.
He added, “An effective Citizen Data Management System is critical for socio-economic planning, improved service delivery and good governance, as well as national and global security. It also has the over-arching benefit of enhancing integrity of the nation’s citizens’ identity instruments for the purpose of information sharing.
“Accordingly, the committee’s recommendations on the strategies for harmonising existing databases, improving the infrastructure for the National Identity Database as well as a review of the supervisory mechanism of the National Identity Management Commission would be given serious consideration.
“The implementation of the recommendations as estimated by the committee would require enormous resources. In this regard, an Implementation Committee would be constituted to further study the recommendations and develop a workable implementation plan.”
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Buhari also pledged Nigeria’s commitment to sustaining the follow-up for the removal of the visa restrictions by the US and developing a credible, harmonised National Identity Data Management System.
He noted that the concerns raised by the US served as a wake up call for the Nigerian government to take actions and clear all doubts about the identity of its citizens.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari’s additional comments at the session.
He wrote, “In consideration of the fact that the concerns raised cast doubts on the credibility of the nation’s citizen identity data management system, the scope of the committee’s assignment was expanded to include strategies to harmonise the various citizen identity data held by different Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“I have gone through the highlights of the report and must commend the chairman and members of the committee for painstakingly carrying out the assignment in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The recommendations as highlighted are capable of addressing the concerns raised by the US Government as well as lead to the development of a reliable national citizen identity data management system.”