Executive Director of the National Identification Authority (NIA), Professor Ken Agyeman Attafuah seems to have burst Hon. Ursula Owusu's bubble about getting all Ghanaians to register their SIM cards with Ghana Card by the end of September.
The Communications and Digitalisation Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, issued a directive to Ghanaians who haven't yet engaged in the ongoing SIM re-registration exercise to do so or have their SIM cards deactivated.
She has extended the deadline for the registration exercise to the end of September this year hoping that all Ghanaians would have their SIM cards registered. This is the third time of extending the deadline for the exercise.
Speaking at a press briefing on Sunday, 31st July and later in an interview with Kwami Sefa Kayi on "Kokrokoo", Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said; “Upon consultation with the industry and in view of the challenges enumerated above, I have very reluctantly decided to grant a conditional extension. The programme will be extended to 30th September to end on the anniversary of its commencement.”
“That will give us one full year of SIM registration. It will be reviewed at the end of this month and any SIM that has not been fully registered by the end of August will be barred from receiving certain services including voice and data services,” she added.
It Is Not Possible
But days after her speech, the NIA - the body mandated to establish and manage a national data centre, by setting up a system to collect, process, store, retrieve and disseminate personal data on Ghanaian citizens and legally and permanently resident foreign nationals, and to issue national identity cards - says it will not be possible for all Ghanaians to receive their Ghana Cards to enable them register their SIM cards before or by the deadline.
Prof Attafuah who heads the NIA, stated on PeaceFM that there are some bottlenecks that need to be taken into serious consideration.
He was emphatic that not all the applicants will have their cards before the deadline because the NIA's capacity is limited; pointing out that this is because the Authority has inadequate number of personnel to register all Ghanaians and distribute their cards to them by the end of September.
"We have opened 276 operational district offices. Every constituency has an office...On the 3rd of November, 2021, we opened 16 Regional offices and 276 district offices operational simultaneously which is a different case but they are all working. Initially, we had some resistance from some political quarters but the truth of the matter is that, at the end of the day, all these offices are functional and serving the good people of this country.
"Every Regional office has only 5 people. Every district office has only 4 people. During the mass registration, 16 people were in every registration center and in every district, there will be about 200 registration centers. Today, there is only one office in every district or municipality and it has either a maximum of five or a maximum of four", he said.
Prof. Ken Attafuah also added that the law that establishes the NIA didn't take into effect the SIM re-registration exercise, explaining the law required the NIA to "exist in perpetuity and for Ghanaians to go there and register at their leisure and pleasure".
The NIA, he expounded, "is like a hospital or a maternity ward; you go there when you need to after the mass registration but today, it's become impromptu for everyone and the strength does not exist".
Prof. Attafuah stressed; "It is an unrealistic expectation that we will be able to give all of them their cards...It is not possible to do that. What is possible, however, is to put in greater efforts and make sure as many as can get it can but to guarantee that every single one is not possible".
"The number of SIM cards linked to the Ghana Cards are less than 15 million and yet we have issued more than 15.5 million, so that's also another factor to consider. Also, by the NCA's own statistics, it has not been possible since October 1st when they began to link all the available Ghana Cards to the SIM cards", he further said.
He made these submissions during an interview on Peace FM's "Kokrokoo" programme Friday morning.