President Jonathan has formally launched a national electronic identity card, which all Nigerians will have to have by 2019 if they want to vote.
Jonathan received the first biometric card which can also be used to make electronic payments.
MasterCard is providing the prepaid payment element and it hopes millions of Nigerians without bank accounts will now gain access to financial services.
Excessive corruption was blamed for a failed attempt to introduce national ID cards in Nigeria 10 years ago analysts say the same problems may stymie the new e-ID scheme.
“The card is not only a means of certifying your identity, but also a personal database repository and payment card, all in your pocket,” President Jonathan said at the launch in the capital, Abuja.
“I have taken keen interest in this project, primarily because of the pervasive impact it can have on every facet of the socio-economic fabric of our dear nation,” he said.
According to Nigeria’s central bank, about 30% of the country’s 167 million inhabitants have access to bank accounts, Bloomberg news agency reports.
MasterCard said combining an identity card with a payment card for those aged 16 and over was a significant move.
“It breaks down one of the most significant barriers to financial inclusion – proof of identity,” MasterCard’s Daniel Monehin said in a statement.
The new cards show a person’s photograph, name, age and unique ID number – and 10 fingerprints and an iris are scanned during enrolment.
These details are intended to ensure that there are no duplicates on the system.
During the pilot phase, which began registering names last October, 13 million MasterCard-branded ID cards will be issued.
There are enrolment centres in all 36 states and there is no fee to get the card, though people will be charged in the event that it needs to be replaced.
The Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which is behind the rollout, is trying to integrate several government databases including those for driving licences, voter registration, health insurance, taxes and pensions.