Ghana has no law to enforce SIM registration deadline

Two days to the September 30, 2011 deadline for SIM card registration and there is no law to enforce the deadline and make the entire exercise mandatory.

The deadline for SIM registration was originally June 30, 2011 but was extended for 90 days to September 30, 2011 because critics challenged the legality of deactivating people’s SIM cards, when there is no law that mandated people to register.

The Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) Registration Regulation, 2011 has not been passed by Parliament yet, and Parliament is on recess until October.

When contacted, the National Communication Authority (NCA) Deputy Director in charge of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Mawuko Zomelo said the NCA would make its position on the SIM registration known to the public soon.

“It is not yet September 30, 2011 so what I can say is that we will make our position known soon,” he said.

Meanwhile industry players and some non-governmental organizations like IMANI-Ghana have pointed out flaws in the draft regulations, which are yet to be addressed.

The issues raised included the types of identification cards being demanded for the SIM registration, for both citizens and non-citizens.

The regulation requires citizens to use either a passport, driver’s license, voters ID, National Health Insurance Card or National Identification Card to register.

But the critics have said that of all the cards, only the National Identification Card (Ghana Card) is mandatory because with the other cards, not everyone is mandated to have them.

The critics are therefore saying the NCA must wait for the National Identification Authority (NIA) to complete the distribution of the national ID cards before insisting on SIM registration, otherwise people would go to court if their phone lines were deactivated.

The regulation also says that foreigners must use passports to register their SIM cards, but since ECOWAS citizens could come to Ghana with any other ID card apart from their passports, the critics have asked the NCA to waive that rule for ECOWAS citizens in recognition of the ECOWAS Treaty, but that is yet to be done.

Information available, however indicates that officials of the NCA have taken an entrenched position, insisting on the superiority of the yet-to-be-passed SIM Registration Regulation over the ECOWAS Treaty, which allowed other ECOWAS citizens to be in Ghana without their passports.

Industry players have also raised concerns about the name of the draft regulation itself, given that, a telecom operator like Expresso sells phones with programmed phone numbers instead of SIM or RUIM cards, so its customers with programmed numbers may not be covered under the regulation, which strictly deals with SIM registration.

An industry expert also told this writer the focus of the exercise was to register phone numbers and not SIMs, but the name of the law creates a different impression.

Meanwhile, it has been found that all the telecom operators, including Expresso are busy registering their customers ahead of the deadline.

Airtel said it has so far registered 96% of its customers, but nine per cent of those were still invalid because of ID problems.

MTN has also registered 93.3 per cent but are still working on verifying those which have problems with invalid ID cards.

By Samuel Nii Narku Dowuona

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