Liberia's Nationwide Identification Registration Gets Underway
Front Page Africa, 23 Oct 2015
Monrovia - On August 1, 2011, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed into law the National Identification Registry Act, which repealed PRC Decree # 65 establishing the National Identification card system. In May 2012, President Sirleaf established the NIR Board of Registrars, which includes the heads of five government institutions. The President’s decision is a result of several months of engagement and resource mobilization and recruitment of a management team for the entity.
On Thursday October 22, 2015, a national work plan for the registry was approved for the next nine months at the end of a meeting held at the Ministry of internal Affairs. And this meeting, according to Acting Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, climaxes a number of key steps that the registry is a fully functional entity of government.
Said Sirleaf: “Today, we welcomed our newly appointed management team: Hon. J. Tiah Nagbe, former Deputy Minister for research and development planning at the Ministry of Internal Affairs as executive director and head of the management team. He is supported by Mr. Zeze R. Reed as the Deputy Executive Director for Technical services and Mrs. Haja Kumba Liberty as Deputy Executive Director for Administration. This team will enjoy the full support of our board and me, as chairman, as long as they serve with diligence, dedication, and dignity.”
The National Registry is created primarily to design, establish, maintain and administer the National Biometric Identification system (NBIS) of the Republic of Liberia. This body, according to the acting internal Affairs minister, is to be a modern computerized database containing information for all citizens and residents of Liberia. “The Registry will not only account for citizens and residents of Liberia but will also be greatly helpful for law enforcement, social planning, payment of benefits, and the conduct of elections, amongst other things,” he said.
In 2013 CMI, in partnership with the Population Registry Center of Finland (VRK), hosted a high-level delegation from the Board of Registrars for the Liberian National Identification Registry (NIR). The then Minister of Internal Affairs, Honorable Blamo Nelson, led the delegation which included Honorable Commissioner Abla G. Williams, head of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization representing the then Minister of Justice, Christiana Tah; and Mr. Ounzubah Kemeh-Gama, technical consultant to the NIR.
During the visit, the Liberian delegation had an opportunity to discuss civil registration processes based on examples from Finland and Kosovo, and how careful planning and implementation of such processes can serve to strengthen the citizen-state relationship, foster participatory development, and in turn, mitigate conflict. The high-level visit was a follow up to a CMI seminar held in Accra, Ghana on Civil Registries, Citizenship, Identity, and Conflict in West Africa.
The importance of identity
Minister Sirleaf said having an identity gives one the sense of belonging. “It ensures that individuals are not stateless. It entitles one to certain rights and the protection of those rights. Belonging to a particular State therefore obligates that State to protect one’s rights and to provide for certain basic services.”