Almost a million sim cards have been exempted from being blocked, Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has told parliament.
“So far the total number of exemptions are 999,419 almost a million sim cards have been exempted from being blocked.” she said.
Presenting a statement on SIM Registration on the floor of Parliament on Thursday, she indicated that embers of the diplomatic corps are exempted from the sim card blockage, explaining that “we have been working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a long time, so they periodically update the list and send it to the NCA and network operators are notified so they are exempted. Staff of Ghana Missions abroad and Ghana Armed Forces are also exempted, Refugees who are in this country are also exempted.”
She also disclosed that 387 persons representing those who contacted the NCA on having peculiar challenges or reasons why they cannot complete the exercise have had their complaints taken down and exempted from being blocked.
Further, she stated that Mobile Money Agents, Merchants and Electronic Voucher Distributors have been granted a temporary exemption from being blocked, “They have been given one month, up till the end of June to complete the registration process.
The Minister also announced that 30m SIMs have been registered so far and added that for the first time in the country’s history, government is creating a digital foundation that will enable a ‘digital economy’ as well as working with the Ghana Revenue Authority to link their database to the SIM Registry database to create a data link aimed at mapping out the usage and spending patterns of mobile phones.
“Right now, every registered SIM is linked to a Ghana Card that has had the ownership of the Ghana Card verified from the NIA. Visiting Foreigners have registered their SIM with their passports and they are only active for 90 days. Almost 30 million SIMs have been registered and can be accounted for after 20 months of this registration exercise and that is no mean feat.”
Government last year through the Ministry of Communications issued a statement requesting Ghanaians to register their sim cards, further extensions followed but the minister maintained that a final deadline on 31st May 2023 will not be compromised issued where all active unregistered SIMs will be blocked (No telecommunication services, including Voice, Text, Data, and Mobile Money).
SIM registration will facilitate the implementation of various government initiatives, such as mobile money services, digital financial services and other electronic transactions. Accurate subscriber identification enables the expansion of these services and enhances financial inclusion.
By registering SIM cards, citizens are better protected against fraud, unsolicited messages, and other forms of misuse of mobile phone services. The ability to identify and track individuals engaging in illegal activities provides a sense of security to mobile phone users.
Minority wants wider consultation
The Minority on their part urged the minister to engage more stakeholders in order to get more Ghanaians registered.
According to Sam George (MP for Ningo Prampram), the minister has to engage technical people at NCA. He also added that the exercise is not undergoing any verification and that those who have registered with the Ghana Card, their data has not been verified against the National Identification System because “the NIA has refused to verify the data, because of law that parliament passed LI 2111, – citing section 9.
He says the NCA and the MNOs have not gone to the NIA to authenticate the portable reader they claim they are using and has not been published in any gazette, “so you are acting in violation of Section 9 of LI 2111 and it is on that basis that problems are arising.”
The MP for Bunkpurugu, Abednego Azumah Bandim stated that the minister has not consulted with the Communications Committee and any other stakeholder.
SIM Registration exercises which have purportedly been undertaken were plagued with multiple challenges which defeated the purpose of the exercise. These included: the use of multiple IDs including the Driving License, Voter’s ID, National Health Insurance Cards and Passport, with no means of verifying their authenticity.
The databases created were unreliable leading to the inability of Security and Law Enforcement Agencies to trace IDs of individuals involved in SIM-related breaches of the law, there was no limit on the number of SIM Cards registered by an individual, resulting in fraudsters registering multiple SIMs to perpetrate scams and defraud innocent citizens.
There was no way of ensuring compliance with the National Identity Register Regulations,2012,LI 2111 which mandated all SIMs to be registered with the Ghana Card.
The government says the aim of the Sim registration exercise is to protect users against fraud and ensure digital security.