Nigeria introduces new ID-and-payment card to combat fraud


Those friendly emails asking for your help in securing access to a long-lost diamond mine may finally be at end, as Nigeria takes a bold new step in the fight against identity theft.

Called smart cards, the new electronic ID documents use Match-On-Card technology to compare the holder’s fingerprint with a profile stored in the embedded chip. It also uses biometrics to discern between identical twins, according to the country’s National Identity Management Commission.

The cards can be used as a travel document in the same way as a passport, and incorporates Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology that allows for document signing, non-repudiation and encryption.

The cards will also address another issue that affects 70% of Nigeria’s 170m inhabitants: a lack of access to banking. The cards have built-in prepaid MasterCards with chip-and-pin verification, and which are separated from the card’s identity functions by a firewall.

According to Daniel Monehin, division president for sub-Saharan Africa at MasterCard, the card’s embedded computer chips keep cardholders safe from fraud, while preventing against the creation of counterfeit cards.

Last year, email phishing scams originating in Nigeria earned fraudsters $12.7 billion and led to 16 convictions in the US. Nigeria’s banking sector lost $800 to electronic fraud between 2000 and 2013, seriously damaging its international reputation.