The National Identity Management Commission says only 79 Nigerians had been enrolled for the National Identity Number in the United States as at Friday.
The update came through the Deputy General Manager of NIMC, Uche Chigbo, almost three months after the exercise was launched in the US in late May.
Chigbo told the News Agency of Nigeria in New York that the enrolment was being done in five centres located in New York, Washington/Maryland, Atlanta and Houston.
She gave breakdown of the figure as New York (17), Maryland (15), Atlanta (14) and Houston (33).
Chigbo, who attributed the slow progress to “teething” challenges, said the issues were being addressed as they emerged.
She said: “Like any new project, there have been some teething problems and implementation issues with the enrolments.
“These include licensees’ familiarity with the enrolment software, good understanding of the enrolment process and connectivity issues.mm
“There is a dedicated team on the NIMC side handling and resolving issues as they arise.
“Training of enrolment staff of licensed firms has been done and still ongoing for new batch.”
NAN reports that NIMC is executing the project through licensed private companies, which are charging enrollees between $40 and $50 each.
Nigerians from zero to 15 years old pay $40 or N12,240 at the official exchange rate, while those at 16 years and above are being charged $50 (N15,300) each.
Chigbo had explained that NIMC decided to engage the private companies because it lacked the legal backing and resources to carry out identity registration outside Nigeria.
She said: “It is in this light that we decided to license private sector organisations, which have the legal backing to engage in such service provision in the US.
“They made investment in terms of equipment because we didn’t give them the equipment they are using; they have to buy all of that.
“They are also renting offices, employing people and establishing connection between whichever country they are operating in and Nigeria so that they can seamlessly send the records real time online.
“All of these are investments they are making and as a going concern, a token should be paid for this service that they are going to be rendering.”
However, the leadership of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Americas has rejected the fees, which it described as unacceptable.
NIDOA’s Board of Trustees Chairman, Obed Monago, stated the organisation’s position at a town hall meeting between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and members of the Nigerian community in New York in June.
“We will not pay, not because we don’t have the money, but because we are acting on principle,” Obed had said.
He wondered why those in the Diaspora were being charged for an exercise that is free back home.
The BOT chairman said NIDOA should be allowed to undertake the project for which he claimed the organisation “has a very good structure in the US.”
But the NIMC deputy general manager said NIDO did not have the licence for identity registration or biometric data capturing in the US, hence the decision to exclude it.
Chigbo said: “We engaged NIDO for almost three years before we started the Diaspora enrolment and NIDO as an association does not meet the requirements to be licensed to operate in these countries.
“NIDO’s proposal was to also use a third party to achieve the same purpose.
“Before the New York flag off, the third party they wanted to use had not been licensed to operate as well.
“So, their argument does not hold water.
“My understanding is that NIDO wants exclusivity of Diaspora enrolment and power to fix fees, which is unacceptable to NIMC as a regulator.”
She added that the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and its Chairperson, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, were part of the licensing process for this enrolment and the agreed fees charged.
Chigbo said: “We blame government for not involving the private sector to deliver effective and efficient service.
“Now government has outsourced to private sector and we still complain.
“No private sector player will make investment without any plans to recoup his money.”