By Chris Burt
The government of Nigeria has declared that the country will officially recognize September 16 annually as “National Identity Day” to raise awareness in the country of the importance of identification as a tool for national development and social cohesion, Nigeria’s National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) announced.
A campaign was launched at ID4Africa 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria to have September 16 recognized by the United Nations as “International Identity Day,” and collected more than 1500 signatures during the conference.
The declaration became official after NIMC Director-General Engr. Aliyu Aziz received a letter from Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, and signed by the SGF Office’s Director of Planning, Research & Statistics David K. Gende, accepting Aziz’ request for Nigeria to “join the Coalition for International Identity Day.” The letter refers to the importance of “identity management for proper planning, governance and efficient service delivery.” NIMC is instructed to carry out educational and awareness campaigns, and take a lead role as the first country to formally adopt September 16 as Identity Day or “ID Day,” after UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.9, which calls for legal identity for all including free birth registrations by 2030.
Aziz, who was also recently named chair of the OSIA advisory committee, said in a statement that NIMC is planning a number of activities for the launch of the recognition, with a program including public and private sector stakeholders in Abuja.
“The purpose of International Identity Day is to raise awareness about the important role identity plays in empowering individuals to exercise their rights and responsibilities fairly and equitably in a modern society,” he explains. “And we are delighted that Nigeria has become the first country in the world to declare September 16 as ID Day, thereby leading the rest of the world in this important direction.”
“Many important issues on the international development and human rights agenda have an observance day,” Aziz continues, noting the examples of Human Rights Day on December 10 and Refugee Day on June 20. “Now is the time for identity to have a day of observance.”
The drive for global recognition of International ID Day entered its third stage late in 2018, when the coalition supporting it surpassed 75 members. This stage requires countries to take a leadership at the international level, including proposing it as an agenda item for the UN General Assembly.
“We are very pleased to see Nigeria taking the lead among the nations, not just in formally recognizing September 16 as Identity Day, but in their continued drive to sensitize the public and the government alike about the importance of Identity in driving inclusion and socio-economic development,” ID4Africa Executive Director Dr. Joseph Atick told Biometric Update in an email.
“Nigeria’s formal action is an important milestone on the road towards international recognition at the level of the UN and will provide a new boost to a campaign that started with a call to action that we launched during the 4th Annual Meeting of the ID4Africa Movement in Abuja, June 2018, which subsequently led to the formation of a coalition that now counts over 110 organizations supporting the call. It is exciting to see the vision for identity day being realized concretely and Nigeria’s formal adoption is an inspiration as we continue to engage with the worldwide community to bring this issue to the UN General Assembly so that September 16 one day will be recognized as International Identity Day–once and for all.”
Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world, and recently received a commitment from the World Bank and partners of $433 million to fund the registration of nearly 100 million people in the country.