- hence blamed for messy sim card re-registration exercise
A global financial analyst, has given an insight into the challenges Ghanaians are facing with the SIM card re-registration exercise as a result of their inability to get their Ghana Card from the National Identification Authority (NIA) which is the only means through which the telecommunication companies would register their clients.
According to Mussa Dankwah, who had been part of the policy since 2014, but was kicked out along the line, said the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, is rather to blame, saying “whilst the NIA strives to make the PPP project self-financing, Ursula Owusu and NCA (National Communications Authority) put a dagger in the project’s financial model.
He attributed the delays in issuing the chip-embedded cards to lack of funds on the part of the NIA, saying “while some kill themselves to make the NIA financially independent, others are busy destroying that independence. We demand accountability on this issue”.
He said “NCA went on its way to work with other private parties to develop the current SIM registration system which NIA does not have hand in and which NCA is asking users to pay GHC5.00 for self-service, revenue which could have gone to NIA to finance the free NIA card been issued to citizens.
Mr Dankwah revealed that, “the Ministry of Communications and NCA, have torpedoed and hijacked the SIM registration, resulting in the loss of a key revenue source of the project. This means that the government of Ghana will have to find scarce resources to fill in the gap created by actions of the Ministry of Communications and NCA at a time the finance minister is trying to balance the books.
He questioned, “why should the Ministry of Communication and NCA be allowed to turn an exercise which was supposed to generate revenue to the government rather becomes a cost to the government?
This comes as National Democratic Congress (NDC) has descended on Ursula over last week’s blockage of SIM cards by the Telcos on the instructions of the NCA and called on the Parliament of Ghana, specifically the Select Committee on Communications to call her and NCA to order over the sanctions meted out to SIM card users yet to re-register their cards.
In a statement registering their displeasure, the party stated that the actions of the Minister and the NCA have been arbitrary and lawless, having no constitutional backing whatsoever and thus must be halted.
Johnson Asiedu Nketia’s statement issued on Saturday, September 10, the NDC, said Mr. Owusu-Ekuful has become “obstinate” in “this simple exercise of linking SIM Cards to Ghana Cards of subscribers”.
“It is an indisputable fact that the re-registration of mobile SIM cards policy and its attendant sanctions that are being meted out to Ghanaians by the Ministry of Communications and the National Communications Authority are neither backed by the SIM Registration Regulations, 2011 (L.I 2006) nor the National Identity Register Regulations, 2012 (L.I 2111) or any law in force in the country.
“The decision by these entities to restrict the SIM Cards of Ghanaians including those who have already re-registered their SIM Cards is therefore unlawful, irresponsible and unacceptable to say the least,” part of the statement signed by General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia read.
They have unequivocally condemned the actions of the Ministry and the NCA for “such mishandling and crass bungling of a simple exercise such as the ongoing SIM card re-registration,” and are demanding that Parliament’s Select Committee on Communications halts the actions of Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu and the NCA.
The NDC commended individuals and groups, who have taken legal actions against the government over the Communication Ministry and the NCA’s actions.
“While we commend and encourage legal actions filed by citizens of the country who have been affected by the reckless SIM Card restrictions, we call on the Parliament of Ghana, particularly the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications to call the Minister of Communications and the NCA to order in line with its oversight responsibility over these state entities.
“The lawlessness being displayed by the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu and the NCA must be halted now.”
On Monday, September 5, the NCA, meted out punitive measures to subscribers who have failed to re-register their SIM cards. The deadline for the re-registration exercise is Friday, September 30.
On Friday, September 9, 2022, Mr Dankwah, had in a Facebook post said “in 2018, the government approved the NIA project to be implemented as a PPP after several years of project development and negotiations to enable the NIA project to be financed with a combination of government private finance. The cost of the project was to be paid for by revenues, including SIM re-registration.
“What is my capacity to speak on this issue? I was the PPP expert during the project development and approval stage from 2014 to 2018. Second, I was a consultant that was chosen to be on the floor of parliament during the approval of the project to answer questions on the floor when the tax exemption proposals were put for approval in the plenary after the Finance Committee approved the proposals. I also responded to the concerns raised by the members of parliament on the opposition side regarding many aspects of the project including the infamous U$1.2 billion whole life cost. Now a private citizen with no involvement in the project.
“Parliament in 2019 approved fees to enable the NIA to work with the Telcos to ensure that the SIM re-registration is carried out seamlessly, not the messy process we are witnessing. The Approved fee was GHC6.00 for data sets which the NIA would have made available to the Telcos through a solution NIA was developing with the PPP partners. Following discussions, the fees was reduced to GHC0.30 per SIM and approved by parliament in 2022 through the fees and charges instrument, which is the law mandating the charging when the NIA assists the Telcos to register any SIM. The NIA process would have been possible even if citizens have not received it if they have been enrolled as the verification system would be done through the system without the need for the Telcos to take biometric data of subscribers. If there is pressure on NIA and there are no funds to print the cards, which may have been affected by global chip supply chain challenges, NIA could have simply deferred issuance.
“NCA went on its way to work with other private parties to develop the current SIM registration system which NIA does not have a hand in and which NCA is asking users to pay GHC5.00 for self-service, revenue which could have gone to NIA to finance the free NIA card been issued to citizens. The Ministry of Communications and NCA have torpedoed and hijacked the SIM registration, resulting in the loss of a key revenue source of the project. This means that the government of Ghana will have to find scarce resources to fill in the gap created by actions of the Ministry of Communications and NCA at a time the finance minister is trying to balance the books.
“Why should the Ministry of Communication and NCA be allowed to turn an exercise which was supposed to generate revenue to the government rather becomes a cost to the government?
“Remember the entire SIM registration exercise could be meaningless, if indeed the NIA is unable to confirm the fingerprint NCA has collected because the standard is incompatible with that of NIA? Remember NIA’s disclaimer?
“While some kill themselves to make the NIA financially independent, others are busy destroying that independence. We demand accountability on this issue.
Meanwhile, a Vice President of Imani Africa, Selorm Branttie, has indicated that the National Communications Authority (NCA) did poor consultations on the system that was put in place for the SIM re-registration exercise.
This, in his view, resulted in the use of a flawed and problematic system for the exercise.
Speaking on the News 360 on TV3, last Friday September 9, in connection with the suit filed against the decision to block unregistered SIM cards, Mr Branttie said “if this system that was built robust and secure, today, people who had reregistered would not have had the problems they are having.
“It is very clear and right from the very onset that the system that has been developed and built is flawed and has a lot of problems. This has emanated because of the fact that there has been very poor consultations among the critical stakeholders.”
The NCA and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, have been sued.
The suit, filed at the Supreme Court by Kwame Asare-Obeng (A-Plus), Convener of the Peoples Project and also a political activist, is seeking a “declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Articles 2, 23 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the Directive by the Minister for Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, on Sunday, July 31, 2022, that the First Defendant will ensure that all SIM cards that are not re-registered by 30 September 2022, will be blocked while the National Identification Authority (NIA) has not been able to issue the Ghana Cards which is the only card to be used for the said re-registration of all Ghanaians is arbitrary, capricious, amounts to an abuse of discretion and same is unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect.
“A declaration on a true and proper interpretation of Articles 2, 23 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the defendants are estopped from blocking the SIM cards of Ghanaians who have not been able to re-register their SIM cards until such a time where the NIA is able to issue the Ghana cards to all Ghanaians.”
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have begun blocking unregistered SIM cards since Monday, September 5.
The NCA on Sunday, September 4, released the punitive actions to be taken against unregistered SIM cards. The ongoing SIM registration exercise is scheduled to end on 30th September 2022.
Persons who fail to register will suffer consequences.
As part of the punitive measures, the NCA, said there would be re-routing of all outgoing calls to IVR for a message to be played before all calls go through every day.
Also, outgoing calls and Data Services for a sequential batch of numbers, will be blocked for 48 hours (2 days) once a week on a rotational basis.