Daily Law Tips (Tip 716) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction:
With multiple institutions (Federal Road Safety Commission, Banks, Telecommunications Companies and even Schools) in Nigeria that demand, obtain and store personal data (including finger prints and biometrics) of persons in Nigeria, Nigeria still does not have a reliable register of persons in Nigeria. In 2007, a federal government agency (National Identity Management Commission [NIMC]) was created for the maintenance of a National Identity Database, the registration of individuals and the issuance of general Multi-purpose Identity Cards.

The law creating NIMC led to the creation of National Identification Numbers, compulsory registration of persons in Nigeria and prohibition of certain business transactions, including land transactions without a National Identification Number (NIN). Hence, with no National Identification Number (NIN), there will be no land transaction; including tenancy, purchase, use, mortgage, registration and others. Reasons for this, punishment and more are considered in this work.

Land Transactions and the National Identity Number:
The National Assembly of Nigeria (Nigeria’s federal legislature) has via a federal law (the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act) created a National Identity Database. The National Identity Database is to contain certain specific registered information (including fingerprints and other biometric information) of citizens of Nigeria and non-Nigerian citizens that are resident in Nigeria.

Every citizen of Nigeria (whether resident in Nigeria or not, including children) and every non-citizen of Nigeria (resident in Nigeria for two (2) or more years, including children) must register to the National Identity Database of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). Upon registration into the National Identity Database, the NIMC will issue a unique National Identity Number (NIN) to the registered person. Failure to register for a National Identification Number is a criminal offence punishable with fine of not less than N100,000 or imprisonment for term of not less than 6 months or both.

Generally, no public service can be obtained without a National Identification Number (NIN). Also, certain specific transactions cannot be performed without a National Identification Number. In such transactions, parties to the transaction must state their National Identification Number (NIN). Among the regulated transactions that cannot be performed without a NIN, include, all transactions involving land and landed property, like the tenancy, mortgage, gift, purchase, transfer, use and registration of land or any similar transaction. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act has empowered every authority, institution and office to request for NIN before attending to any listed transactions; like land transactions.

Furthermore, performing a land transaction without a NIN is a criminal offence. The crime is punishable with a fine of not less than N50,000.00 or imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months or both, where the offence is committed by a person that has a NIN. Where the offender is a corporate body, the body corporate will be punished upon conviction with a fine of not less than N1,000,000.00 and in addition to that, the Chief Executive or any person acting on behalf of the corporate body will be deemed guilty of that offence and upon conviction will be punished with a fine of N1,000,000.00 each.

Conclusion:
There is an obvious need for a robust reliable National Identity Database of all persons (Nigerians and foreigners) in Nigeria. No Nation can be safe or plan, execute and grow without data of its inhabitants. Revenue generation and even misappropriation of revenue can be tackled with a reliable identity database. Land transactions are among the transactions that no person can perform in Nigeria without a National Identity Number. This will ensure that related taxes and levies are paid/recovered, while reliable details of land owners can be monitored and related disputes avoided.

It is important to note that although, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act prohibits certain transactions from being performed in any part of Nigeria without a National Identification Number (NIN), the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act also states that the prohibition of such transactions will only commence on a date to be specified by the National Identity Management Commission via a Regulation. Sequel to this, by a federal regulation (the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations 2015) made by the National Identity Management Commission, the commencement date for the prohibition of transactions without a NIN is 1st July 2015.

Furthermore, on 26 October 2017, the NIMC made another regulation (the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017) for the mandatory use of NIN in some specified transactions and also expanded the list of transactions prohibited by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act. Hence, it is safe to conclude that since 1st July 2015, no person in Nigeria can perform a land transaction without a National Identification Number and doing such is a criminal offence.

My authorities, are:
1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 37, 38, 39, 44, 45, 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
2. Sections 1, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33 and 34 of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act, 2007.
3. Regulations 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the Mandatory Use of the NIN Regulations 2015.
4. Regulations 1, 4, 7, 8 and 9 of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017.

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