Giants of Industry: Gavin Young, GMD/CEO, Chams Plc

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Group Managing Director/CEO, Chams PLC, Gavin Young
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“The days of expecting Government to enrol all Nigerians to a national ID database through Government managed infrastructure, has already come and gone.”

In this first issue of Giants of Industry, the Group Managing Director/CEO of Chams PLC, Gavin Young speaks with Echotitbits’ Tobiloba Kolawole about the National Identity Number (NIN) program.

Prior to assuming the position of GMD/CEO of Chams Plc, a leading provider of integrated identity management and identity and payments transactional systems, Gavin Young since 2009, has worked (on a full-time and part-time basis) with the Chams Plc Group of Companies as Managing Director of ChamsSwitch and Deputy managing Director of Chams Mobile, among other roles.

His career cuts across 20 years at First National Bank of South Africa, seven years at Visa as Country Manager, sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, he joined UBA as Senior General Manager, Cards.

Data as Bedrock for Efficient Public Service.

Correct and accurate data of individuals, linked to either BVN or NIN is absolutely essential to ensure that services and benefits are provided correctly, in an audited and transparent way, to those that require the benefit or service. Although BVN and NIN form the backbone of an individual’s identity, additional information from individuals is required for various purposes where BVN and NIN fields may not cater for information for specific purposes.

The BVN as Financial Enabler

BVN has an added advantage, in that it serves as an enabler for financial inclusion and therefore, both comprehensive data and an electronic means of receiving and spending funds are both very important. In addition, once a person has a BVN number, for which you don’t need to open an account, one also obtains a NIN number, negating the need to also enrol fully for a NIN.

Chams Group is working closely with Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to expand the number of BVNs in Nigeria this year, as this Covid-19 pandemic has made this an urgent priority, particularly across the private sector. NIBSS has recently introduced an enrolment app linked to a fingerprint scanner, which makes it a lot easier and more efficient to enrol the masses.

A Case for Private Sector Driven National Identity Programme

In my opinion, we shouldn’t be relying on Government to deliver on their NIN enrolment ambitions. It should really be up to the private sector to perform this role with NIBSS, then simply have that data also ported to NIMC for the issuance of a BVN. I’m sure that the private sector would be far more efficient at performing this data collection role and also expanding financial services and other benefits through capturing additional data.

Given the current oil price, pressure on foreign reserves and the need to support people over these difficult times, I don’t believe that Government should also be expected to provide funding for a mass NIN enrolment service, when this can be private sector led with very little cost to Government. This is one of the ways private sector can further support Government and the people of Nigeria over these challenging times.

NIMC and the Struggles of NIN Enrolment

Well, it’s not for me to speak for NIMC and why the majority of student and adult Nigerians have not been enrolled to the National Identity program. However, it is right that they remain the custodians of a true national ID program. However, as mentioned before, it’s enrolment of the masses to that program that has presented a challenge for Government.

However, I am very optimistic that the private sector, and companies such as Chams PLC, in partnership with NIBSS, will expand BVN enrolments significantly this year and next. Banks have also been playing an important role from inception of the BVN program. I am very optimistic that with the technology now in place, that over 100 million Nigerians would be enrolled before the end of 2021. I believe it’s a very realistic target because it’s private sector led.

I believe that Mobile telecommunications companies will also step-up BVN enrolment initiatives so that they could achieve their financial inclusion ambitions in the informal sector.

In summary, the days of expecting Government to enrol all Nigerians to a national ID database through Government managed infrastructure, has already come and gone. Private sector will now assist to achieve this for the benefit of all Nigerians, whilst meeting NIN criteria from which many Government agencies and the people they serve, would also benefit.