Technology is made to be efficient so as to complement the repetitive and accurate nature of work. Most countries that have efficiently adopted technology have moved a step further from where they were. In Africa, countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and others have made sufficient progress in organising various sectors of their governments using technology. However, the case seems to be different in Nigeria where technology is part of the reason why things don’t work –the Giant of Africa.
The recent Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) biometric capturing exercise further proves how slow Nigeria is moving. To accept technology and refuse to utilise its levels of proficiency in a highly populated country like Nigeria is to subject the people and the system under pressure, perpetual stress and dysfunction. Added to this, the people themselves, especially civil servants further compound the very problems they complain about. If until now, adopting an integrated system for ease of salary payment, taxation and other official networking is being politicised, then it is unfortunate.
The process of the IPPIS biometric capturing had civil servants join on very long queues to obtain verification forms which everyone was expected to fill manually. The form was to be accompanied with photocopies of; academic qualifications, letter of first appointment, letter of last promotion, six months’ bank statement, letter of change of name (if applicable), staff ID, first letter of pension insurance (printout), BVN (Biometric Verification Number), etc. This kind of system is what I prefer to call a techno-political system. It is a system that plays politics with technology on the altar of sentiments, corruption and mediocrity.
The public have no idea how much is allocated for the printing of the verification forms. If this is investigated and made public, one would understand why technology would remain sluggish in Nigeria. The reason is because there are individuals who have hijacked the system and are feeding fat for printing of forms. Let us not forget that, a separate quasi-recruitment is done to hire people who would carry out the biometric capturing. This is a budget for another cabal who then employ illiterates or amateurs to help make the system more problematic but to their advantage.
I do not want to suggest that Nigeria’s political system is responding to the current ‘Baba go slow’ ideology that seem to prefer the analog system while politically promoting technology. It seems however, that Nigeria’s sluggish system is perpetuated by civil servants whose leaderships have become internally politicised for anything to function. Leaders come and go, but the civil service that constitutes the government remains. If the system must continue to function in the way a healthy system functions, then civil servants must be able to reject in outright manner those policies that pollute the system. Is this the case?
IPPIS is not the only example of a techno-political system; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Pension Scheme (NPS), Nigerian Health Insurance Scheme, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and any of such organisations and institutions have politicised the efficiency of technology for the private gains of certain individuals. That is why every department, organisation or institution in Nigeria find it difficult or unable to retrieve individual information on the ‘database’ (if any) but would rather prefer the manual filling of forms. However, since we have learnt to ‘thank God’ in all situations as Nigerians in accepting everything on the basis of faith and fate, then the nightmare would persist.
Tertsea Ikyoive writes from University of KwaZulu-Natal.