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NIN Tokenization

Background Summary

  • From Jan 31, 2022, NIMC will order verification parties, such as merchants, to stop verifying raw NINs for KYC, instructing them to verify virtual NINs instead.

  • The virtual NINs will be provided to merchants by the NIN Holder who generates it via the NIMC Mobile ID app or USSD app.

  • Smile Identity is completing arrangements to operate as an intermediary between merchants and the NIMC database.

  • Smile Identity and its merchants have a 45-day grace period as of January 31, 2022. During this time, they must transition to acceptance of tokenized NINs, thus complying with the official policy direction of NIMC.

Who are the Parties?

  • NIN Holder

  • Merchant

  • Integrator

  • NIMC

What is NIMC’s role?

NIMC has the legal mandate to maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria.

What is Smile Identity’s role

Smile Identity will operate as an “integrator”, meaning it acts as an intermediary between NIMC and the merchant and, in that capacity, decrypts and processes virtual NINs that merchants accept at onboarding.

What is the merchant's role?

The merchant provides services to the NIN Holder with whom it has a direct relationship.

What is the NIN Holder’s role?

The NIN holder provides a virtual NIN to prove his/her identity when onboarding onto a merchant’s service.

What is a Virtual NIN?

  • NIMC’s Mobile ID app and USSD app has a feature that provides NIN Holders with a virtual NIN.

  • This virtual NIN is a tokenized version of the person’s actual NIN which cannot be retained or used by the verifying party in a way that puts the individual’s data privacy at risk.

  • The virtual NIN (not the NIN record it represents) expires 72 hours after being generated.

  • A NIN Holder can provide the virtual NIN to a merchant who needs to confirm her identity before offering services (banks, mobile network operators, airlines, healthcare providers, etc.).

What is the User Journey?

To generate a virtual NIN, the ID holder must go through one of these three steps:

  • Install and configure the NIMC Mobile ID app on a smartphone.

  • If the NIMC Mobile ID app is not on the phone, dial *346*4*760347# from the mobile number known to NIMC.

  • If ID holders don’t have a feature phone, they can obtain an Enhanced NIN slip with a QR code. This can be scanned by the merchant to generate a virtual NIN.

To access the virtual NIN, click on “Get Virtual NIN”.

How does a virtual NIN get verified?

Old Process ❌

New Process ✅

I am a merchant. How do I accept virtual NINs?

To generate a virtual NIN, the merchant requires a merchant code. It can be rendered in the form of a QR code or a 6 digit code. There are two ways to procure the merchant code:

  1. By contacting NIMC directly

  2. Through an Integrator such as Smile Identity

To be issued a merchant code directly from NIMC, merchants must meet minimum compliance requirements by providing the following documents:

  • Certificate of Incorporation

  • Articles of Association

  • Tax Clearance Certificate

  • ITF Compliance Certificate

  • Data Protection Policy

  • Director’s UserID (generated via the NIMC Mobile ID App)

Alternatively, merchants can be issued a merchant code by Smile Identity. Merchants can simply complete their KYC profile via the partner dashboard.

What product changes are required of merchants?

  • The merchant is required to design screens that display the merchant code, and provide guidance on installing the NIMC mobile ID app and dialing the USSD merchant code.

  • For new partners, choose an integration option and run any of our products that support ID authority access such as - Identity Verification, Enhanced KYC, and Enhanced KYC+SmartSelfie™.

  • For existing partners, no integration is required. Simply make a configuration change by passing VIRTUAL_NIN as an id type.

  • If your KYC process requires selfie verification, our Enhanced KYC+SmartSelfie™ product provides support for virtual NIN.

  • You can learn more about our different product offerings here.

How can Smile Identity help?

We can help merchants navigate the changes in accepting tokenized NIN, from onboarding onto the new NIMC system, to conducting the relevant integrations, to providing complementary anti-fraud services.

  1. Merchant Onboarding

    Perform merchant KYC checks and sign up merchants with NIMC to receive a short code.

  2. Integration

    • Provide API Integration support for the tokenization platform.
    • Integration gives the merchants the ability to decrypt Personal Identifiable Information (PII) when authorized by NIMC.

  3. Extra Fraud Prevention

    We recommend that merchants add a biometric layer to their onboarding flow to reduce the potential for fraud. Our Enhanced KYC+SmartSelfie™ product couples identity validation with facial verification to add extra security during onboarding. See image below for more details.

  4. Support for other government ID types

    We not only provide support for virtual NINs but for other ID types too. At Smile Identity, we are building the tools and software that make it easier for millions of Africans to prove and verify their identity online. We have the widest reach across Africa, with more coverage, more ID types, more countries, more integrations, more scale, and more support than anyone else. If you need support for other ID types in Nigeria, please email


When is the switch over deadline?

The deadline is January 31, 2022.

How does this affect Smile Identity?

From January 31, 2022, Smile Identity will transition its partners to accepting virtual NINs for the purposes of user onboarding and KYC.

Will there be a grace period for transition?

There will be a 45-day grace period starting from Jan 31st, 2022.

How does this affect me as a merchant?

Agree on a timeline with the integrator (Smile Identity) and schedule the implementation sprint for virtual NIN before the 45-day grace period elapses. NIN, NIN slip and NIN_phone number services will remain active over the course of the grace period.

Do you need a NIN-registered phone number to generate a virtual NIN?

Yes, a phone number registered with NIMC is required. Additionally, NIMC will do an OTP verification before users can generate their virtual NINs.

Do virtual NINs have the same coverage as actual NINs?

The virtual NIN is a tokenized version of the NIN and therefore has the same coverage as the actual NIN. As of December 2021, more than 70M Nigerians had been enrolled on the NIMC NIN database.

Can merchants substitute NIN for other ID types, such as voter ID, BVN and driver’s license?

Smile Identity supports different ID types. Access depends on the merchants’ licenses. Merchants should choose the ID they accept at onboarding based on their use case, regulatory position, and verification flow.That said, NIN is an ID type that is rising in popularity with Nigerians to access financial and social services.

What data will merchants get back from the tokens?

The virtual NIN returns the photo, first name, middle name, last name, gender and date of birth of the ID holder.

Does Smile provide selfie verification with virtual NIN?

Yes we do. NIMC provides a photo in the data response which we can compare to a selfie taken by the user.

What changes will Smile Identity make?

We will add support for virtual NIN in the existing ID API endpoint. Our merchants will then pass V_NIN as an id_type.

Do the raw NIN and virtual NIN share the same format?

No. The raw NIN is an 11 digit number whereas the virtual NIN is a 16 character-long alphanumeric string.