Managing Director of IRIS Smart Technologies Limited (ISTL), Olayinka Fisher, has said the Nigerian e-Passport is world-class insisting that 95 per cent of components that constitute its security features is not made in the country.
He, however, pointed out that Nigeria was not the only country depending on foreign components for its e-Passport, just as he disclosed that about 94 countries buy the chips for their e-Passports from the same company in Netherlands.
This, according to him, was so because setting up a chip manufacturing company will gulp about $3 billion and as such, most countries feel it is cheaper to import finished products for their passports.
In an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP, Fisher said IRIS, an ICT solution provider, has, for the past 30 years, continued to rely on its vision and focus in technology to solve problems and challenges, both in the public and private sector in Nigeria.
He said, “We are doing it for patriotic reasons not because it is profitable. We are also doing it to get around this dis-information that it is because passports are made abroad, that is the problem; it is not the problem. 95% of the passports when you de-coup is not made in Nigeria. The chip that we put in the back is not made here.
“There is no chip manufacturing company in Nigeria, even in the world, 94 countries buy their chip for the passport from the same company in Netherlands in Holland because to set up a chip manufacturing company is about $3 billion. So, why do you want to buy a cow when you can buy milk?
“The back cover of our passport is made by the international companies that do it and all the countries in the world buy from them. The thread that we sow the stitching from is a specialized security thread that is made specially for the country. So, when you add up all these component, the only component that you can do in Nigeria is to print. Even to print, most countries now don’t use their government printer”.
Asked whether data of passport holders will be altered without the knowledge and consent of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) since most of the components used are not only foreign but also designed by a private firm, the IRIS MD described such thinking as laughable, saying it is only the NIS which set up the security authorisation that can alter anything in the e-Passport.
His words: “Yes, nothing can be altered or changed once the chip has been stored. Mind you, we do not have access to e-passport database. So, we can’t alter anything. Let me backtrack a little. When we started the project, it was the Immigration that provided two people who were trained to be in charge of the database.
“The idea is simple; you come to me to set up a security system for you, you have people who can enter things for you, people who can write the codes and the people who can overwrite things, and we have a pyramid of authorization. It was immigration that set up the security authorization. That is one side of your question.
“The other side of your question is that technology has something we call ‘write once, read many times’. It means that you write once into a chip and you can read the chip many times, but once you have written it, that is it; you can’t change it. So, we don’t author anything; Immigration does”.
On how far IRIS has impacted on the ICT sector, Fisher recalled that the firm was the first ICT company to give the Nigerian banking industry an online banking solution.
He said, “The fact is that when we started, we had a vision and focus to use technology as a tool to solve different problems in Nigeria, whether it is in the private sector or public sector. We started off in providing solutions in the banking sector as far back as 1986. We were the first ICT firm to give the Nigerian banking industry an online real-time banking solution. Before then banks used accounting machines and manual ledger.
“Also in the banking sector, we provided banks a solution for what we call ‘The One Branch Banking’. This means you can now go to any branch of your bank and do your transactions. Those were the innovations we did in the banking sector nearly 30 years ago.
“Before now, if you had an account with a particular branch of a bank, you couldn’t withdraw from another branch. We also did a lot of innovation in terms of automating private commercial companies on how they order their goods, process their sales and purchase. We were also the first to automate voter roll in this country. But the problem with voter roll is multiple registrations. We then used biometrics to rid the system of that problem”.