SIM card registration breather

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Mobile phone subscribers who have registered their SIM cards but are yet to be validated will not be affected by the deadline for registration, the Minister of Communications, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, has said.

This declaration, which is expected to be of great relief to both mobile phone operators and the more than three million subscribers who face the threat of losing their SIMs, is to ensure that subscribers are not unduly denied access to mobile phone services across the country by the March 3, 2012 deadline.

?It is not the intention of the government to deny any subscriber his/her right to communication,? he said, but noted strongly that ?we expect the National Communications Authority (NCA) to ensure strict compliance with the law,? Mr Iddrisu told the Daily Graphic in an interview in Barcelona, Spain, where he is attending the Mobile World Congress.

Following the passage of a Legislative Instrument (LI) on the use of SIM cards in the country last month, card holders who have not registered them are to be deactivated by March 3, 2012.

This has created some anxiety among the public, particularly those who have registered their SIMs but are facing challenges with validation, mostly not because of any fault of theirs.

The various operators in the country have also expressed misgivings about the intended exercise at various forums because they fear losing millions of their subscribers.

They argued that, per their understanding of the LI, those who had not made any attempt to register their SIMs stand the risk of being deactivated.

However, they claimed that those who had made an attempt to register should be spared until the NCA was able to validate their registration.

There are many challenges with the validation exercise being conducted by the NCA.

This is because those who registered with their passports or driving licences in particular have their records handwritten in a stockpile of books lodged in dusty rooms either at the Passport Office or the offices of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), making it a very tedious exercise for the temporary staff engaged by the NCA to effectively do their work.

Against that background, Mr Iddrisu called on the NCA to administratively handle, through dialogue with the operators, all unresolved issues of validation which inevitably could also affect and lead to the deactivation of subscribers whose validation process had not been successfully completed.

?All such anomalies can be handled administratively and I request the regulator to meet with network operators to find a common ground which respects the law but allows for some administrative flexibility of invalidated registered subscribers,? he said.

The minister was optimistic that should the NCA engage the network operators, both parties could reach an understanding on how to deal with the challenges of those who had attempted to register or had registered but had had to wait for validation to finalise the registration process.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Mr Michael Ikpoki, has described the registration process as relevant, saying, ?SIM registration is not a new thing and Ghana is not unique and, therefore, in terms of the objective of promoting national security, among others, it is in the right direction.?

He said the operators, including MTN, were supportive of the exercise in terms of the overall objective and ?we have created the awareness, having SIM registration around the country, and as of now about 99 per cent of our base has been registered.?

There are fears of a legal battle ensuing after the March 3 deadline, since some subscribers who may be deactivated may use the courts to seek redress.

?MTN cannot stop subscribers from taking legal action when they are deactivated but we have engaged the NCA on our interpretation of the law to avoid any such occurrence,? Mr Ikpoki.

?We think those who have not registered at all can be deactivated but not those who have done so but have their registration faulty due to circumstances beyond their control,? he said.

Mr Ikpoki said people had been registered, but for one reason or another, information on them did not march what the NCA had.

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