Time to revamp NIRA to make it work

Nira staff collects data from Ugandans for ID registration in December 2019. PHOTO | NIRA

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Efficiency 
  • Our view: The Nira we all desire is one where we don’t need to submit a file of documents to process a permit or passport at any other agency. The mention of one’s name should be enough to enable the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control access their personal information for any legal document. 

The Auditor General’s report for the Financial Year 2021/2022 spotlighted several “glaring issues” with the National Security Information System (NSIS).

The NSIS is among several National Identification Registration Authority (Nira) internal systems that were called into question, with the report’s findings dismayed by the outdated approach used by the government agency.

Established after the Nira Act, 2015, came into place, Nira still relies on humans to manually record, capture and upload the data of applicants.

Today, Nira is largely known for issuing National Identity Cards (IDs). That ID, the size of a bank Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card is perhaps the most important document you need.  However, when that ID was first introduced, it was interpreted as a tool that citizens would use during elections to vote and not much more. 

The intake was initially low. The tables have since turned as it’s required to obtain or renew a passport and driving permit. 

You also need it to register your sim cards. In addition, public servants must have it to be able to access the government payroll. Without an ID, you are unlikely to get served. 

We are at the point where citizens are learning to treat having an ID as a necessity and not a luxury. 

But, is issuing IDs all that Nira does? Of course not. In its mandate, Nira is supposed to register births and deaths in the country. 

Registration of births with government remains a luxury for many until adulthood. Since many children today are born in health facilities, Nira needs to partner with these to register babies on day one. 

In cases of death, families must be compelled to process certificates even while mourning. Many tend not to care until there is a fight for inheritance involved. 

Nira is also specifically charged with developing a National Identification Register of the county’s citizens and legally resident non-citizens. This process is endless. 

The Nira we all desire is one where we don’t need to submit a file of documents to process a permit or passport at any other agency.  The mention of one’s name should be enough to enable the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control access their personal information for any legal document. 

In addition, there will be people who will soon question the safety of their information in the hands of government. How much of this private data should government have and will they use it for the right purpose? 

Clearly, there are more questions than answers along with demands, which require that the country constitutes a Nira of 2023 and not 2015. 



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