29th June, 2011
If there is one thing that makes Omowunmi Olatunji-Edet, a lawmaker at the Lagos State House of Assembly proud, it is the passing into law of the state’s Residentsâ€™ Registration Agency and Connected Purpose Bill.
The essence of the law, which has 23 sections, is to ensure that government has a record of every resident of the state. In this regard, residents will be made to register their identity and then be given identity cards to enable them access government facilities and services. The bill will also help to set up an agency in order to boost employment in the state.
The agency, according to the law, has a governing board made up of the Commissioner for Science and Technology, a general manager, a representative each of the Motor Vehicle Administration Agency, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health.
It will also have two members of the public to be appointed by the governor on the recommendation of the commissioner.
Section 10 of the law, which talks about the functions of the agency states that it will create a reliable data base of all residents of Lagos State with a view to providing useful information for social welfare, political, security, business, employment, financial activities, housing and demography statistics for health-related matters such as provision of health insurance, for the purpose of facilitating unified planning and implementation of development projects.
The section also states that the agency will have a data bank for all residents of the state, provide residency cards for them to ease identification, generate health statistics in the state for Health Insurance Scheme. It ill also help to verify compliance with relevant laws and regulations of the state
The general manager, the law stipulates, willd be in charge of the day-to-day running of the agency, who will be appointed and removed according to civil service rules.
The law states further that as from the commencement of the law, every person residing in the state shall register with the agency within three months and any person that moves into a long term accommodation in the state after the commencement of this law shall within 30 days of moving into the accommodation, register with the agency.
While maintaining that a resident must notify the agency in terms of change of names, landlords must also notify it of new residents in their premises and shall inform the person of the need to register with the agency.
Also, while giving power to community development comittees and associations to mobilise the people in their areas for the registration, it forbade officials of the agency from divulging information or disclosing data submitted and filed with it.
However, the agency, it was learnt, has taken off but has not started with the registration of residents.
According to Olatunji-Edet, whose Committee on Science and Technology handled it, the agency is at its enlightenment stage, while it is currently informing the people of the state the reasons for the exercise and will begin work once that is concluded.
Olatunji-Edet, while stressing the rationale behind the law, said â€œthe concept of the law is about the government knowing its people, especially those who are residents of the state. The brain behind it is for proper planning of the budget. We realised that while planning the budget for the year, there is no real target without the government knowing the number of people in the state and this has affected us a lot. With this now, we try to see how we can maximise the resources of the state.
â€œIt will also help government to know who needs what. It was after series of meetings that the idea of need for the law came up and we realised that if we are planning for people, we should know them and to do this, we must have their adequate data.
â€œIt will foster security in the sense that once we know where you reside and anything goes wrong, we know where and how to trace you. And if you need security agencies to do anything for you, it will be easy because your data is already domiciled in a particular bank.
Also, all agencies dealing with taking care of the people are already connected. When you are sick, you just go to the hospital and within seconds, your data shows up. With this, you will benefit in some ways from the health service that will be rendered to you.”
However, there is the challenge of lack of implementation of laws passed by the House, but she said this one will be different â€œin the sense that we have already started sensitising people and awareness is being created. In some advanced countries of the world, you cannot use some facilities without your identity number, which gives you the leverage to benefit from government.
â€œWhen you pay your tax, the information goes into a bank where you can then draw from as a citizen. This is what we are trying to bring to the people. This law affects the people directly and the agency in charge is already working on modalities to ensure that people do not travel kilometres to get registered and once you get this done, a receipt is issued to you and with time, you will get your card.â€