Ghana’s Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (pictured) has announced that all Ghanians will need to register their SIM cards again, or else find themselves disconnected. The registration exercise will begin at the start of 2020 and subscribers will have until the end of June to present a valid identity document in person. MyJoyOnline.com reported that the exercise would help to address crime.
The registration of SIM Cards is part of government’s effort to fight mobile phone related crimes. It is also intended to help the law enforcement agencies to identify the SIM card owners, track criminals who use phones for illegal activities, curb incidents such as phone theft, hate text messages, mobile fraud activities, inciting violence, and to combat crime such as SIM Box fraud.
Ghana brought its SIM Registration Regulations into effect in 2011. But it seems the government is not satisfied with the data that has been collected through previous registration drives, blaming telcos and their agents for a failure to impose sufficiently strict controls over the registration of SIM cards.
The Daily Graphic highlighted a legitimate concern that information about subscribers not be misused.
…we wish to remind the regulatory body not to allow the [registration] process to raise tension in the country by using the exercise to undermine the ability of users to communicate anonymously and one’s right to privacy.
GhanaWeb reported that former Communication Minister Dr Edward Omane Boamah criticized the government for the way the re-registration exercise would impose additional burdens on the populous.
Protecting the public purse means ensuring efficiency in business operations and raking in more revenue. Who is going to pay for the total cost of the SIM card registration? Citizens, Telcos and Government.
Therefore, the National ID registration process should have been an opportunity to register SIM cards and address other forms of critical Identification and tracking problems.
This would have saved Ghanaians the ordeal of multiple queues and loss of precious time.
Owusu-Ekuful included simbox fraud in the list of crimes being tackled by the government’s audit of telco revenues. Over the last couple of years she has repeatedly come under pressure to explain what value has been generated by the country’s simbox detection program but avoided giving a straight answer until last week, when she made a statement that asserted the program had been generating obvious and enormous returns from the moment it began. Decide for yourself why the minister timed her statement to follow an instruction that all voters must spend time queueing for permission to keep using their mobile phones.
Unfortunately, it seems no Ghanian journalists went to the trouble to verify the minister’s claims about increased tax receipts from privately-owned telcos, so I will have to examine the numbers in due course.