The Minority Caucus in Parliament have called on the government to rescind its decision to deactivate unregistered SIM cards from the 1st of August, 2022.
At a press briefing earlier today, Thursday, 28 July 2022, the Deputy Ranking on the communication committee of Parliament, Sam Nartey George, drew the attention of the minister of communication and digitisation Ursula Owusu-Ekuful that many Ghanaians, due to institutional failures and no fault of theirs have not acquired their Ghana cards to enable them register their SIM cards.
He said many attempts to convince the communications minister to rescind her decision has failed.
To this end he said “I want to use this means to call on His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to instruct his Minister for Communications and Digitalisation to rescind her decision on the deadline as it holds potential national security implications for millions of Ghanaians who have not been able, due to no fault of the theirs [received their Ghana cards]. We urge the President and the national security minister to take cognizance of the fact that millions of Ghanaians earn a living by use of their SIM cards on a daily basis.”
He further noted that the Minority will use every legal means to force the NIA and the communications minister to heed to their call.
Meanwhile thousands of Ghanaians have massed up at various offices of the NIA to collect theur cards but are unable to get them for reasons they have no control over.
Find below details of the Minority’s press conference:
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE NDC MINORITY COMMUNICATIONS CAUCUS IN PARLIAMENT ON THURSDAY,28TH JULY 2022
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, Honourable colleagues and our friends from the media. Thank you for taking time to join us in this all important press briefing on what has been termed the deadline for SIM card registrations in the country by the Minister for Communications and Digitalization.
Let me state emphatically and without any iota of doubt that as a caucus, the minority caucus, we are not against any policy initiative that seeks to provide a clean, credible, reliable database of persons who hold SIM cards in our country and use same for transacting private or public business. However, we are against any attempt to illegally carry out what should be a legal mandate. We have maintained that the Parliament of Ghana has passed only one legislation for the registration of SIM cards. That legislation is LI. 2006 which is known as the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulations. It remains a wonder and worry why the Minister would want to abandon LI. 2006 which is specific to SIM registration and rely on another legislative instrument . LI. 2006 which is specifically for the creation of a National Identification Register cannot be used as the enabling law for SIM card registration. It simply defies logic and any technical explanation. Let us be clear, when Parliament passes specific legislative instruments, these legislative instruments are not omnibus laws. They are specific legislations that have specific use and so you cannot take for example, an LI for DVLA operations and apply same to the operations of SSNIT or the Bank of Ghana.
Now let us explain what LI. 2006 says in section 2. It reads that “a network operator or service provider shall register a subscriber identity module(SIM) of a subscriber.” It goes on to say what the registrants must provide to the network operator. These are “the date of birth, in the case of an individual, the date of incorporation in the case of a body corporate or company, the date of registration in the case of a partnership on unincorporated bodies of persons and see an IDENTIFICATION DOCUMENT(emphasis mine).” This is what the law says. Now the law does not end there. The law goes on in section 10 of the LI which is the interpretation section to define, explain and interpret what the legislation means by identification document. Section 10 of LI. 2006 reads “in this regulations, unless the context otherwise requires identification document for a citizen includes
A valid driver's licence.
A valid national health insurance identification card.
A valid passport
A valid voters identification card
A valid national identity card or
Any other valid form of identification document, the authority may be determined by publication in the Gazette and a daily newspaper of national circulation.
For the avoidance of any doubt six document types are specified in the law as acceptable for the registration of SIM cards. Of the five documents accepted by the law, I would admit that one is no longer valid since the passage of this law and by the effect of the rulings of the courts has become null and void. This is a valid national health insurance identification card. And this is because of the Abu Ramadan v Electoral Commission case where it was determined by Supreme Court that the National Health Insurance Identification card is not a document good enough in the eye of the law to identify a Ghanaian.
However, a driver's licence, a passport, a voter ID card, or a national ID card, which we call the Ghana card are legal and acceptable identification documents by the law passed in Parliament. Our question therefore is why the Minister for Communications and Digitalisation through the NCA is avoiding the use of the other three documents and insisting that we must use only the Ghana Card. Ghana is governed by laws and the respect for our laws and the respect for Parliament, which the Minister is a member of, is sacrosanct. Parliament cannot continue to sit aloof and watch for laws to be misapplied or ignored by members of the executive.
Ghana's international standing as a beacon of digital growth and development is threatened by the policy incoherence between government agencies. The National Identification Authority, a state agency, an agency under the Ministry of Interior, being the sole body responsible for the issuance of Ghana cards has proven to be unable to meet the demand of Ghanaians who have made a request for a Ghana card. The NIA’s operations are fraught with a lot of systemic challenges. There are a number of categories of affected persons;
1 Persons whose cards have been missing and have tried to go for replacement.
2 Persons who registered since 2018 and whose cards have been printed but are in different locations.
3 Persons who registered but have errors on the cards either with a wrong picture or misspelt name
4 Persons who have married or had change of names and need same to reflect on their cards
Persons who in attempting to deal with any of the issues above reregister and get flagged by the system as double registration
Some of these persons have traversed the length and breadth of our country in the past six months, some for almost two years trying to get rectification of this cards to no avail and this is due to no fault of theirs. This is a failure of a state agency. You then have another state agency saying that it is going to block the use of SIM cards because another state agency has failed in its mandate. One is left to ask himself if the policy incoherence of this government has become a fashion statement where state agencies compete to outdo each other with their policy incoherence. Let us state without equivocation, that the NIA is currently in no state at this point in time to even in the next six months deal with the backlog and deal with the crisis that has been created.
We are aware of the myriad of issues across regional and district capitals of our country facing operations of the NIA. In most NIA Offices, only 15 - 30 people at the maximum are being processed on a daily basis. As we speak to you, at the NIA office in Ho, which is a regional office, the next available date for you to have your application processed is end of August this year. How does a citizen go to the NIA office and is given a date for the end of August comply with this of obnoxious, capricious, malicious, whimsical and unrighteous directive from the Minister for Communications and Digitalisation?
We have evidence that due to the inability of persons to acquire their own Ghana Card, we currently have a situation where individuals are registering SIM cards for other persons who do not have Ghana cards. This is counterproductive. This will lead to having SIM cards that are in the hands of citizens but are not registered in their names. What then would the Minister have achieved by developing a new database whose integrity is compromised from the onset? The minister is simply cutting her nose to spite her face.
The foregoing leads us to say that the Minister must as a matter of urgency, rescind her position on this matter. The Minister must exercise administrative authority in a way complies with article 296 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana, which says that discretionary power must not be used in an arbitrary manner. The minister's actions are in flagrant disregard for article 296 and seek to create a situation where telcos who have invested in infrastructure in Ghana would lose out on the very clients for whom they have made the investment. How do we say we are making giant strides in digitization if we are taking away the access and the tool to the digital world from the hands of persons.
I wish to state unequivocally that as a minority caucus, we would resist using all lawful methods at our disposal, any attempt to deprive our citizens and Constituents the use of their SIM cards from the 1st of August because of this, malicious, ill-intended, capricious, obnoxious, atrocious and whimsical directive of the Minister of Communications and Digitalization. We have engaged with the minister, but it appears that the Minister is adamant in her ways and has decided not to listen to the sound voice of reason and the words of all the stakeholders in the industry. We urge the regulator, the National Communications Authority to show their competence and technical abilities by notifying the sector minister of the impropriety of her actions and directive. We wish to assure the telecom companies operating in our jurisdiction that as a minority, we are concerned about their well being and operations for anything that affects their operations affects their workers who are constituents. We can assure them that the minority caucus will continue to use all means available to us and Parliament to ensure that their operations are not affected by poor policy decisions taken by persons at the helm of affairs today.
And we hope that within the next 24 to 48 hours reason would apply. I want to use this means to call on His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to instruct his Minister for Communications and Digitalisation to rescind her decision on the deadline as it holds potential national security implications for millions of Ghanians who have not been able, due to no fault of the theirs. We urge the President and the national security minister to take cognizance of the fact that millions of Ghanaians earn a living by use of their SIM cards on a daily basis.
Thank you so much for your patience and for listening to us.