Nigeria remains one of the most challenging environments for any entrepreneur to start up a business and thrive. The country is also a very difficult place to have a formal business-inclined relationship across the spectrum of associations between people – customer to customer, business to customers and to a large extent, business to business, despite the presence of a legal system that can intervene in the event of a contractual breakdown, and this causality is as a result of the absence of trust in the society. This paper is being written to identify the multiple systems the Nigerian Government presently use in establishing a citizen’s identity. To provide an analysis of these systems, including but not necessarily limited to – their strengths, weaknesses; To look for the opportunity to create a possible alternative system or initiate a better process that provides the necessary increase in accuracy and efficiency that can be achieved,using our approach. The paper identifies the fundamental cause of these challenges, after critical analysis, and profers an improvising solution that can work effectively within the Nigeria environment.
When Ebay was founded in 1995, it started as an online marketplace for buying and selling personal items in a very rudiment way by today’s standards – with no guarantee, no payment platform, no fee or 3rd party interaction. Critics thought it was a foolish idea, and expected a scenario where a seller will ship a bad item and the buyer in return, mail a bounced check.
eBay outgrew Pierre Omidyar, the CEO’s, personal account within 5 months and had to be moved to a business account. Buyers and sellers who became members of the online communinity were charged a small fee to participate on the platform. eBay continued to grow by leaps and bounds and “Omidyar in an interview told the New York Times that he had so many checks piling up at his door, he had to hire an assistance to open them all” (Wells, 2018). Pierre Omidyar is now worth roughly $11 billion.
Societies become more wealthy as the level of trust and cooperation between members of that environment increases. Ebay was able to grow in leaps and bounds because it was a business that was built based on trust, in an almost entirely trustworthy society.
But how was the United States able to develop the level of trust within its population? Over the years, societies in the western worlds, have been able to efficiently gather every single relevant information about an identity within its population. These information gathering are consistently cross-checked and updated, and even given score points, fundamentally to have accurate information about an individual and to be able to plan social welfare, but as a subset, to also ensure good behavior and citizenship.
An efficient information gathering on citizens is lacking in Nigeria and in effect, businesses are unable to flourish, thereby causing business-like citizen to citizen relationship to be grounded in so much distrust, dishonesty and bad faith.
For the vast history of man, humans lived in small groups of 50 that never grew past 150. Scientists believe that from a genetic stand point, we are only built to cooperate with as many people as we can know well. Everybody knew everyone. If you stole someone’s dinner, or did not defend the group against an enemy, everyone knew you and you will get punished.
“But when you start having strangers in the group, people you don’t know well, it means people can free ride and cheat in the group with impunity” (Azim, 2018). As societies start to expand in population, groups started experiencing cheaters within them, making the groups unable to self-sustain. The group needs a level of cooperation for it to act and work harmoniously, and this can only be achieved through the identification of people.
We often define ourselves internally with limited reference to others, and social identity is used to define a “person’s sense of who they are, based on their membership” (Tajfel, 1979) to that tribe or population.
“A person’s identity is defined as the totality of one’s self-construal, in which how one interprets oneself in the present expresses the continuity between how one interprets oneself as one was in the past and how one interprets oneself as one aspires to be in the future”; this lets us define some aspects of identity, for instance: “One’s ethnic identity is defined as that part of the totality of one’s self-interpretation made up of those dimensions that express the continuity between one’s understanding of past ancestry and one’s future aspirations in relation to ethnicity”.
“Group such as social class, family, football team or nation, which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem” (Tajfel, 1979).
There are many considerations that add toward the identity of an individual, and this can be classified in the following identity components:
- Socio-demographic characteristics– “Includes characteristics such as gender, age, ethnic group, household size, or employment status. It is based on the premise that demographic groups are relatively homogenous and lends itself easily to quantification, measurement and classification. Additionally, it is difficult to falsify unless a false identity is being used” (Dr. F, 2018).
- Benefit sought after– “The benefits desired from pursuing certain behaviour, including the underlying motivation. It focuses on common values and attitudes across cultural groups. It may be extremely difficult to observe and is not suitable to assess individual, rather than group, behavior” (Dr. F, 2018).
- Behaviour displayed – “In relation to the financial institution. That is, based on data resulting from actions of the account holders, such as the length of relationship with the bank, modes of payment and shopping preferences, product ownership, and contributions to political, religious, and charitable groups. An underlying assumption prevails that past or current behaviour offers the best predictor of future behaviour. It is very useful in anti-money laundering, but easy to falsify and often difficult to measure” (Dr. F, 2018).
The capacity to construct a profile for an identity using one or more of the above components, is how societies have been able to identify people, so as to create an enabling and a successful environment for them.
In the United States, the US Passport document and the Social Securit ID can be legally used as national identification, however, the state-issued driver’s license or state-issued identity card, is what is mostly used as a means of identification, nationally.
There is nothing like the term official national identity card from a federal agency that is mandatory for all US citizens. The uniformity of driving in the United States makes the driver’s license, which is issued by each State, the unofficial national identity card.
“A driver’s license or the State ID card contains a wealth of private information. In addition to full name, date of birth, signature, and photograph, licenses and state ID cards typically bear one’s home address, color of the eye, gender, and height. Some states go beyond that, including natural hair color, weight, Social Security number, and fingerprints (the latter two being stored in the license or state ID’s barcode)” (Wong, 2014).
One point to note is that despite having federal jurisdiction, the social security card cannot verify an identity. They are essentially used to comply with Social Security payroll tax laws and to verify the match between the name of an identity and an assigned Social Security Number.
Secondary Identity Verification Documents
There are other secondary documents that can be used to establish the identity of a person, which are naturally unacceptable as a primary form of identification. However, they are also useful in obtaining a primary form of identification, when a primary documentation have been lost or stolen. “These other documents include:
- The Internal identification card issued by one’s employer, university, or school
- Voter’s registration card
- Credit cards and debit cards
- Proof of professional certification for members of regulated professions
- Health insurance card issued by a private health insurance company, by Medicare, or by a government agency
- Library cards
- Membership or Loyalty cards issued by private companies such as, supermarkets, warehouse club stores, etc.
- Utility bills, which are often used as proof of residence or address”.
Micro to Macro Impact of Credit on an Economy
From personal experiences, we have a general understanding of how credit works. We borrow money from the bank or other people, to purchase goods and services immediately, and then repay with interest at a later date. The immediate purchase could be, to buy a house, a car, or grocery shopping.
However, there are other agendas and different objectives which economic policymakers have, so as to create an impact on the broader economy.
“Instead of having to save for long time in order to obtain a big-ticket item like a house or a car, credit allows the borrower to have the item immediately, while using future earnings to make repayments over a period of time” (Butler, 2009). Economic policymakers understand that access to credit expands purchasing power, allowing people the ability to buy more things. The more transactions are conducted, the more the economy booms.
Economy policymakers understand that having easy credit access, is a main factor in growing economies. Unfortunately, 3rd world economies such as Nigeria, performs poorly in understanding and implementing such policies. According to the International Finance Corporation, which is the lending arm of the World Bank, “Lack of access to finance is a key constraint on the growth of small and medium enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa, and thus also an important limitation on employment, economic growth and shared prosperity”.
In any case, for a society to credibly run a functioning credit system, there are two important subsystems that have to be reliably put in place – A credit bureau and a reliable system to background checks. From these two, any registered Consumer Reporting Agency can pull records and provide reliable information about an identity.
“Consumer credits are granted by banks, retailers and a variety of other lending institutions and this is a sector of the economy that has seen rapid growth over the last few decades”. Credit scoring, which is broadly applied in consumer lending, is a statistical approach that predicts the probability that a credit applicant will default or become delinquent. Credit analysis, which consists of the valuation of the financial history and financial statements of the applicant credit background, aims to evaluate the borrower’s probability of repayment, to determine the financial strength of the borrower, and to minimize the risk of non-payment to an acceptable level. Good borrowers with low credit risk would be granted a loan, while a high risk borrower would be denied” (Roszbach 2004)
“The procedure with which an applicant’s creditworthiness is being determined, was based on the 6 C’s namely Character, Capacity, Cash, Collateral, Conditions and Control” (Rose, 1993), which some experts find unreliable. However, this augmented demand for credit has since led to the innovative idea of a credit scoring system. The “credit scoring methods have produce more precise classifications in comparison with subjective judgmental assessments by loan officers” (Rosenberg et al. 1994). An advantage to this is that it makes credit scoring more efficient, while also assisting lenders to review the borrowers’ creditworthiness more regularly.
“Credit scoring enhances and sometimes replaces the traditional subjective assessment, since it measures the credit risk of applicants much more accurately and quickly than the latter one. This method of measuring credit risk is mostly used in consumer loans, especially in credit cards but, nowadays, has become commonly used in mortgage lending and in complex business loans as well” (Roszbach 2004)
The United States has three major credit reporting agencies, and they are, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. “They were set up to help keep track of consumer and corporate spending and repayment history, thereby protecting creditors.
Prior to this, a consumer could default on a financial obligation and simply shift over to obtain financing from an unsuspecting creditor who had no way to know that the consumer was a credit risk” (Rotter, 2018). In the case of Nigeria, for instance, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, recently mentioned that about “350 Nigerians are responsible for more than 80 per cent of the $15bn debt portfolio of the company” (AMCON, 2015), out of 180 million people living in the country.
Ahmed Kuru, CEO AMCON, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, disclosed that “the 350 Nigerians or their businesses, owe a whopping $12bn of the $15bn debt profile of the company, an amount which is over 50 per cent of the 2018 Budget of Nigeria”.
These 350 individuals have registered businesses and are able to accumulate this substantial debt profile, by seeking loans from one bank to the other using the same credentials, and defaulting on these loans.
Thankfully, the advent of internet which as further eased efficient data collection and error correction, has reduced the ability to defraud creditors
“There are different types of background checks, that contain overlapping results. For instance, a criminal background check can reveal sex offender crimes, but there are also sex offender-only background checks (Criminalwatchdog, 2018).
Below is a list of the different kinds of background checks:
- Convictions of felonies and misdemeanors
- Court records (dockets, judgements, etc.)
- Sex offenses
- Incarceration records
Background checks from a county are self explanatory, containing records of arrests and convictions within that particular county. Whereas State background checks, vary. Some states have just a handful of county records on file, while other states have all county records in their databases” (Criminalwatchdog, 2018).
Employment verification exercise is the most common type of background check carried by people and organizations, and these checks produce the following kind of information
Criminal history, Character references, Social security number verification, Education verification.
One point to however note is, pre-employment verification checks differ depending on the need of the employer and the type of job involved. If an employer is seeking to hire an account officer or a Chief Finance Officer, running a credit check is ideal. Whereas, a parent seeking the services of a nanny will most likely specifically look for sex offenses.
“Landlords use this exercise to screen potential tenants in order to make sure they are responsible. This background check review criminal records, credit reports, and contact past landlords for personal references” (Criminalwatchdog, 2018)
In Nigeria, there have been many cases where tenants are unable to fulfill their rental obligations. These free rent seekers are able to twist around laws that protect the tenant, enabling them stay rent free for a duration up to 6 months.
Childcare Background Checks
Extensive background checks is always required for childcare workers. The requirements for screening nannies or childcare workers vary, but most will require checks from:
- State criminal records
- State and federal fingerprint records
- Child abuse and neglect list records
- State and federal sex offender records
Consumer Reporting Agencies
Every credit report contain rich of information that lenders are able to use to assess applicant’s risk as a borrowers.
This information have details about their credit account, the type of account, the credit limit and account balance, and payment history, or collections that are in the account holder’s name.
“The information in this credit report comes directly from companies that have extended credit in the past. Credit card companies, banks, credit unions, retailers and mortgage lenders all report the details of the credit activity to the credit reporting agencies (CRAs)” (Equifax, 2014).
“CRAs also receive information from debt collectors, and they purchase public records, such as bankruptcies, from public record providers”. (Equifax 2014)
The Importance of Conducting Background Checks
The hiring of new employees can be a difficult experience. It is important to find the right candidate with the education and capacity to do the job. In an environment such as Nigeria, verifying claims are problematic, and many employers have found themselves in circumstances where they have hired incompetent employees that are discovered later to be unable to perform the task they were hired for.
“To be effective in hiring practices involves delving into the background of applicants to get a better idea of their abilities and employment performance. However, this has to be restrained with respect for the privacy of each individual candidate as well as being compliant with relevant laws” (TheAdvancedGroup, 2011).
Primarily, background checks are run to determine the accuracy of the information provided by an applicant. It also an opportunity to assist in creating a profile for the applicant beyond what can be discovered in a short encounter. For instance, a security officer position is not open to anybody with a criminal record.
“Before a background check is initiated, proper evaluation for the purpose is important. Some activities of a background check may not be necessary. An organization can easily go overboard in a background check to err on the side of caution. Certain information such as medical and credit history require written consent from the applicant” (TheAdvancedGroup, 2011).
Employers have the right to know who they are hiring and background checks are legal. Technically, any information that comes up on a background check is usually public record. “Employers can therefore research this information and take it into account when making hiring decisions and most employers exercise this right. According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 72% of employers conduct background checks on every new employee” (Klazema, 2018)
Background Check Laws and Limitations
It is vital to note that there are several laws that limit an employer’s ability to use background checks in making hostile decisions about hiring. Both employers and applicants should always check what information is legal about the background check that will be run.
The limitations that often apply to employment background checks:
In United States, “the Fair Credit Recording Act (FCRA) is one of the most important documents that protects the legality of employment background checks. The FCRA documents does not prohibit employers from conducting background checks on applicants” (Klazema, 2018). Instead, it provides a process that employers must go through before and after checks are run on prospective employees.
“Before the check, an employer must follow a rigid set of rules to obtain a candidate’s written consent to the check and after the background check, if the employer wishes to make an adverse hiring decision based on the findings of the report (Klazema, 2018), it must first:
- Inform the candidate in writing about the decision,
- Provide a copy of the background check report that led to the decision
- The candidate must be given the details of the company that prepared the background check report
- Tell the candidate the background check company did not make the hiring decision, despite preparing the relevant report
- Inform the candidate that he or she can request an additional copy of the report from the background check company
- Inform the candidate of their right to contact the background check company and dispute the report’s accuracy” (Klazema, 2018)
In Nigeria, the Bank Verification Number, which is widely known as the BVN is an identification system executed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to reduce illegitimate banking transactions in the country. “It is a modern security measure in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 1958 to reduce fraud in the banking system”.
“BVN verification works by recording the fingerprints and facial photograph of the applicant. It uses a biometric technology to register customers in the financial system. It records these unique physical features, such as the fingerprints and eye of an individual. A BVN is generated once a person’s biometrics have been recorded” (Punch, 2015). The mandate is to protect bank customers, reduce fraud and strengthen the Nigerian banking system.
The BVN have been a successful venture ecause of its Biometric enrolment technology, as it “is helpful to people who cannot read and write. Their finger prints and pictures would serve the same purpose as signatures” (Punch, 2015). Bank customers who have multiple account with different banks would be covered when they do a single registration in any of the banks where they have accounts.
“BVN was initiated to help the banking system reduce situations where loan defaulters, for instance, move from one bank to the other and the banks extend new credits to them, without knowing their history. Banks would be able to track transactions across all banks in Nigeria with more ease” (Vanguard, 2015). The BVN project has captured no fewer than 31 million Nigerians, with its unique identifier number.
According to Dipo Fatokun, CBN Director, Banking and Payment System, “disclosed in a paper titled, `Nigeria’s progress towards the creation of a robust, trusted and inclusive Financial Services Environment’, that CBN had also linked a total of 43,959,282 banks accounts” (Vanguard, 2015).
The objectives include the following: “increase access, convenience, service levels across the industry; enable greater financial inclusion and integration of financial services into the economy, with its attendant positive impact on economic development’’ (Fatokun, 2015).
According to Fatokun, “the BVN has also helped to increase deterrent controls on financial transactions and reduce or mitigate fraud risk and identity theft. Most importantly, it has created avenues for people who cannot write regular signature to make financial transactions, thus, facilitating financial inclusion” (Vanguard 2018).
Everywhere in the world, because of the common use of vehicle licensing, the driver’s license remains a document which users get after a well defined process. “As an official document, it permits individuals to operate any motorized vehicles, such as motorcycle, car, truck or bus on public roads in accordance to the law of the country” (Odumade, 2018).
In Nigeria, “the first and most important purpose of driver’s license is to identify the owner as duly certified by the state to operate a motor vehicle. It is the first document a state enforcement officer will demand from a driver, without which a driver has no right to operate a vehicle on public roadway” (Odumade, 2018).
The Nigerian driver’s license serves as an official document which can be presented to open a bank account, when applying for government benefits and loans. “A current driver’s license is a universally accepted form of personal identification, because it displays contact information and picture of the holder. In the instance of accident or emergency, it has also been structured to provide vital information concerning contact details of the next of kin, blood group of driver, which sometimes determine treatment to be administered during casualty” (Odumade, 2018)
However,” many Nigerians try to circumvent the application process of securing driver’s license because of the cumbersomeness involved. They often engage in the services of middlemen who have knowledge about the system are contracted to fasts track the process. A document that is officially obtained for $20 for a three year license will be obtained unofficially for $60. This middleman arrangement is also facilitated by the corruption of many officials who have been compromised” (Odumade, 2018). An additional consequence is, a different false identity can also be created.
Integrating Existing Identification Systems
The “National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is a statutory Nigerian organization that operates the country’s national identity management systems. The NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 established the commission to create, operate and manage Nigeria’s a national identity card database, integrate the existing identity database in government institutions, register individuals and legal residents, assign a unique national identification number and introduce general multi-purpose cards” (Nwezeh, 2010).
This project is an initiative to create a national identity database and to prevent both double identity and identity fraud by assigning a unique identifier number, just as done with the Social Security Number, in the United States.
Every citizen and legal resident of Nigeria are required to enrol for the National Identification Number (NIN).
The NIN is a unique set of numbers assigned to Nigerian citizens after their biometric records have been taken and the National Identity Database confirms that there is no previous entry of the same data. The NIN once issued to a person cannot be reissued, even if the number was previously assigned to a dead person.
The NIN references all records from other agencies such as Vehicle Licensing office, Tax ID, Passports, BVN, etc about a person in the database, harmonize the data and, used to check the identity verified.
Challenges Deploying the National Identification Number
One of the challenges facing the National Identity Management Commission is the production of national identity cards for everyone who enrolled for it, despite the huge public clamour for it. According to the commission, “national identity cards that are ready are mainly for people who enrolled in 2012 and 2013, adopting a first-come, first-served approach”, the Director-General, NIMC, Aliyu Aziz. He also expressed concern in the huge cost being incurred in the identity management of different sectors in Nigeria.
Aziz said that the “duplication of efforts have led to uncoordinated identity approach, as well as unreliable identity information due to lack of interoperability and disconnected databases”.
He said NIMC was tasked with the responsibility to ensure absolute integrity and security of this information. He added that the linkages between agencies such as the birth and death agencies would be an advantage.
“The Identity Management System in Nigeria is rigged with many other challenges such as underfunding from the Nigerian Government; corruption; the inability to integrate identity systems from other government agencies – NIMC, NPC, INEC, FRSC, National Passport Office; and Incompetence from the NIMC administration and its inability to coordinate its processes along the framework of the agency” (Ibanga, 2017)
AO Incorporated has been looking at various opportunities for its organization to apply the IT and Software capabilities of the Company in some potential new markets and has decided to be registered as an authorized Consumer Reporting Agency in Nigeria. As part of its research on possible projects, developing a robust private driven credit and identity check system comes highly recommended, in such a way that it would help the Nigerian Government tackle some of its citizen’s identity crisis while also spurning economic growth.
In order to optimize the delivery of a cost effective, yet an efficient solution that provides value for users and the Nigerian environment as a whole, AO Inc will be limiting its identity check scope of service to the development and deployment of a bespoke solution that addresses specific background check services for
- Nanny Solution: To conduct background checks on any household employee. AO Inc. will offer different levels of screening options and also provide the ability for additional secondary searches.
Nigeria has an expanding middle class, which mean many parents are having to work longer hours and at the same time, not having time for child care. Unfortunately, theft and abuse crimes are existing in the childcare world. No parent will want to endanger the life of their child. In Nigeria, when many families find a nanny they really like, they feel a background check is unnecessary. This is aside the fact that going about a background check is not a straightforward process and easily accessible.
To do a Nanny Background Check, the information will search for
Identity Confirmation – NIN number, Full name, Driver’s license
Criminal Records – 5 year non criminal activities, 5 year address history, sex offenses, court cases, misdemeanors
Reference Check – work history
Driving records – If any
- Employee Verification Solution – To offer a comprehensive class of background screenings, including an abundance of checks designed specifically for most industry workers. In addition, AO Inc. will conduct deep criminal history searches and provide a wide variety of verifications, such as those for past education and employment. For example, CBC News of Canada reported that fraud in the workplace cost Canadian Businesses over $3.2 Billion in 2011
The employment verification solution will check for job competency. For many employers, a background check is a reliable way of verifying claims made by job seekers during the hiring process. With a tight employment market, the appeal of overstating educational qualifications or enhancing job histories, can grow.
The employment verification will also check that it has enough information to protect against workplace safety and theft. Employers know that most business theft today is performed by insiders. A background check can help employers to make intelligent and informed hiring decisions to help reduce their risk of theft.
- Credit Check – To offer a solution that reveals credit history, including paying habits, judgments, liens, and bankruptcies for the individual. This information is useful in determining financial responsibility and money management for the applicant.
- Tenant Screening Report – A service that runs a thorough search and screening process on a potential tenant, to help a landlord avoid future problems by detailing a history of past rental behavior and rental responsibility.
Chart 1 – AO Inc. IDM System
Chart 2 – AO Inc. IDM Services
Chart 3 – Interaction between AO Inc. IDM and Integrated Identification Agencies in Nigeria to pull Identity
This section will be focusing on a brief analysis of the business opportunities and strengths of running a consumer reporting agency such as which, AO Inc intend to engage in Nigeria. This SOAR analysis will be a useful approach for the strategic planning of the project.
AO Inc is looking at registering as a consumer reporting agency in Nigeria to be able to carry out various checks on an identity – from credit reporting to other forms of background checks.based on research and findings, there is only one existing company Background Check Internation https://www.bcilimited.com/about/, BCI, which as a first market mover, is already running similar services, and is also the only kind of organization presently registered in Nigeria offering such services.
The following AO Inc core organization strengths and assets are determined to be
- A state of the art technology, covering applications and equipment, that we will be bringing from the United States
- An excellent training program that will be designed specifically for new field operation personnels
- A solid long term relationship with top key Nigeria Government officials who are willing to fast track licensing and other regulation requirements
Opportunities are already identified and that’s why AO Inc will be limiting its scope of services to areas of specific need to the average Nigerian – Employment verification, Tenant Screening, Credit reporting and Nanny Services. Based on research, it was found that the competitor, BCI, running similar services charge a steep cost to run its services. AO Inc will be bringing down the cost implication to a fraction lower, making it more affordable and covering a larger, marginalized customers within the market space.
This paper is written to look at the opportunities where AO Inc will be able to apply its IT and Software capabilities in some potential market. Nigeria as a business environment does not have a credible and or easily assessible Consumer Reporting Agencies that offer a robust private driven credit and identity check systems, in such a way that it would benefit the Nigerian Government and its people, and also help to tackle some of its citizen’s identity crisis.
A thriving and booming economy is one which has people having a high level of cooperation and trust. To develop trust and cooperation, individuals within that environment must be identifiable, and a system has to be designed to force them into having credible values and uprightness. Will AO Inc. mission and vision be able to achieve this project?
“When your vision becomes your mission, your business will become a movement.” A successful business can create change that affects neighborhoods, cities, even the world.
The last chapter using the SOAR analysis already explored the strengths and opportunities that are there for embarking on this project, and a final motivating need to go ahead, is that AO Inc. has as part of its vision, the moral obligation to contribute to creating enabling societies, around the world.
Paper Written by: Ade Oyinloye
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