Since its launch early this month, the National Integrated Identification Management System (Niims) otherwise known as Huduma Namba has continued to elicit heated debate, which essentially demonstrates lack of clarity about the initiative.
Despite the high profile launch that roped in all key political leaders and top government officials, the public is grossly uninformed about what the number is all about, its justification, the reason for the rush and the compulsion to have it.
On paper, this is an attempt at consolidating citizens’ data and providing one-stop shop for all the information an individual requires to transact official business.
Arguably, this is an appropriate and efficient system of managing information and, in turn, provides a basis for planning and making projections for development and services.
Indeed, it has never made sense why an individual should carry so many documents — national ID, personal identification number, driving licence, among others — to conduct business.
However, this point has not been properly explained. Moreover, it is not clear how Niims sits with other programmes like the National Census, now slated for August, which besides enumeration, collates data on the citizens.
But more troubling is the way government officials criss-crossing the country to market the initiative are explaining it. The narratives are disjointed, unconvincing and in some instances, senseless.
For one, it is typified as the cure for planning; that through it, the government will be able to do correct projections on the national needs and target resources properly.
This is incorrect. The other day, the public was told that Niims had enabled the government to identify and weed out ghost workers in the police service.
Identification of ghost workers has always been done before through other means. In a more ridiculous sense, a top government official announced that the number will help the government eradicate famine — nothing could be more preposterous.
Some politicians have even created a twist to it.
The government has a lot of data it generates each year; thus it cannot be surmised that it is only Huduma Namba that will provide the correct statistics.
If that was the case, then the country has been taken for a ride for years; that the annual budgets and other plans have all been based on false premises.
Public communication and buy-in is critical in any endeavour, a fact those in government know very well.
But it beggars questions why the Huduma Namba is not being properly explained and marketed.
Lack of proper information has opened floodgates for rumour mills, scaremongers and disinformation, undermining what is otherwise a noble undertaking.