Mad rush for Ghana Card as July 31 SIM re-registration deadline nears

Source The Ghana Report

Many have thronged the various registration centres across the country for their Ghana Card, pending the July 31 deadline for the ongoing Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) re-registration exercise.

This is to enable them to use the card to complete their SIM card registration before the end of July.

Last week, the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation announced at a presser that there would be no extension for the SIM card re-registration exercise.

“I, therefore, take this opportunity to urge all those who’ve not registered their SIM cards to do so as the deadline of 31 July 2022 will not be extended,” the sector Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said.

This means individuals who fail to register before 1 August 2022 will lose their SIMs.

With barely two days to register, centres like El-Walk Sports Stadium, the NIA office at Adum in the Ashanti Region and the National Identification Authority (NIA) head office itself in Accra were filled to capacity.

Some applicants were seen patiently seated in long queues under tents while others were on their feet waiting to be attended to.

The general issues are misplaced cards, new registration, errors in spelling their names, different dates of birth, and failure to link Ghana cards to SIM cards, among others.

A prospective applicant, Diana Abodakpe, who journeyed all the way from Afienya to the El-Walk Sports Stadium, expressed her disappointment with the entire process.

“Yesterday, I came here. I went to NIA, and they said I had to come to El-walk for a replacement of my card. I got here around 9:00 am and joined the queue. I understand I have to go through four different processes for a replacement. Thankfully, yesterday at 3:30 pm, I completed the first process, but today, I had to return to complete the other processes.

“Today (Friday), I got here at 6:00 am, but as you can see, I am still here — not even done with the second process. I don’t understand why I have to go through all these processes when my personal data had already been captured when I first registered. I have an account with Ecobank, and when I lost my card, I lodged the complaint and subsequently, they blocked the ATM card and gave me another one, so I don’t understand what is going on here,” she said.

Another applicant at the El-walk Sports stadium said he arrived at the centre as early as 5:30 am but to his dismay, he was the 70th person in line.

“I came here because I have a problem with my Ghana card. I have the Ghana card, alright, but my problem is how to link it to my MTN SIM, so that’s why I am here. When we got here, we were given forms to fill out. If you look around, you’ll see that every applicant has a form, so hopefully, it will get to our turn soon.

“But the truth is, I am not the only person with a problem. I can even say that almost 800,000 people have issues, just behind me, I can count 400 people and facing me 400, so there is a need to do something about the deadline,” a male applicant in his thirties spoke to Joynews monitored by theghanareport.com.

Although the Ghana Card has a 10-year life span, another applicant who seemed to have a peculiar problem said he could not register his SIM because he was told his Ghana Card had expired.

“I used this card last two weeks to register my Tigo [SIM], but when I went to register my MTN, they told me it had expired, so I am here to find out why I cannot register when I used the same Ghana Card as at last week. I did the card for GHC250 at the NIA head office at Shiashie, so how can it expire after two years?” he quizzed.

The NIA centre currently offers a premium service at GH₵250.00 for the ID card to be issued instantly and GH₵30 for replacement.

The SIM registration exercise began on 1 October 2021 and was expected to end on 31 March 2022 but was later extended to 31 July 2022.

It was extended because over 7.5 million citizens and residents were yet to obtain their Ghana cards to enable them to register their SIM cards.

A release from the NIA indicated that about 800,000 Ghanaians are yet to receive or pick up their printed cards as of 21 July 2022.

But the Communications and Digitalisation Ministry says as of 17 March 2022, a total of 14,091,542 SIM cards had been linked to the Ghana Card.

Out of that, 10,348,532 had been bio-captured, and 99,445 were new SIM cards.

Applicants gathered at the National Identification Authority (NIA) office at Adum in the Ashanti region

Calls for Extension

In a related development, a public policy think tank, CUTS International, has urged the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation to extend the SIM registration exercise to the end of the year.

At a presser in Accra on Monday, 25 July, the West African Regional Director for CUTS International, Appiah Kusi Adomako, said this is to allow the wider population who have genuine challenges in obtaining their Ghana Card from the National Identification Authority (NIA), to be given enough time to resolve the issues and register their SIMs.

“We understand the rationale behind the mandatory SIM card registration and the implication of unregistered SIM cards on crime prevention and detection as well as on government domestic revenue mobilization measures, extending the deadline to the end of the year would ensure that those who have not registered would be able to do so.

“Again, we are also not unmindful that not everyone would get registered should it be extended to the end of the year but those who would take advantage of the extension to register would outnumber those who would not register.

“As a consumer protection organization, we have received numerous concerns from consumers about the difficulty they go through in acquiring the Ghana Card to enable them to register their SIM cards,” he explained.

Mr Adomako indicated that the concerns dated back to the mass registration exercise in 2019 — applicants still haven’t received their cards.

Aside from CUTS International, the Minority in Parliament has joined calls for an extension and called on President Nana Akufo-Addo to instruct the Communications and Digitalisation Minister to extend the deadline.

The Deputy Ranking Member on the Communications Committee of Parliament, Sam Nartey George, said several genuine factors prevent people from registering their SIM cards.

“We hope that within the next 24 to 48 hours, reason will apply. We want to use this means to call on the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to instruct his Minister for Communications to rescind his decision on the deadline as it poses potential national security implications for millions of Ghanaians who have not been able to register due to no fault of theirs.

“We urge the President and the National Security Minister not to treat this issue with kids’ gloves and take cognizance of the threat of terror and ensure that the millions of Ghanaians who use their SIMs on a daily basis are not disenfranchised,” he stressed.

Who stands to lose more?

The West African Regional Director for CUTS International, Appiah Kusi Adomako, believes that the telecommunication giants and the government itself stand to lose more should they fail to extend the deadline.

He explained that telcos risk losing huge volumes of revenue from their customers should the deadline not be extended.

Some have taken microloans from mobile operators, and disabling their SIM cards would create a substantial loss for the industry players.

“Government, on the other hand, also risk losing a huge amount of revenue from electronic transactions (e-levy) from customers should the deadline stay as it is,” he added.

He suggested that an alternative approach would be for the Ministry of Communications to adopt phased limitations on SIM cards starting from 1 September 2022.

This could include limiting the amount of mobile money that an unregistered SIM can send and or receive to a maximum of GHC 100.00 per day and maximum internet bundle to say 100MB per day. Doing this, he believes, would compel those who have their cards and are reluctant to go and register.

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