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Ghana pauses early block on mobile subscribers as biometric SIM registration draws criticism

Ghana pauses early block on mobile subscribers as biometric SIM registration draws criticism

Telecoms in Ghana have been instructed to stop blocking SIM cards, roughly a week after they were due to begin implementing the sanctions on subscribers, News Ghana reports.

Ghana’s SIM re-registration exercise has a September 30 deadline, but mobile network operators in the country were instructed to begin blocking outgoing calls on data from those yet to do so for two days a week as of September 5.

The biometric Ghana Card is the only credential accepted for SIM re-registration, but those who have registered and are yet to receive it are being blocked as well, according to the report. The Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation launched a self-service app to speed the re-registration process, but it was released weeks after the planned launch on August 2. Some users complain that they have paid the fee through the app, but been forced to go through the process and pay the fee for additional attempts when the process failed.

A lawsuit has been brought against the September 30 deadline by activism group the People’s Project. Another may follow from IMANI Ghana, on grounds that the government has no right to interfere in existing contracts between MNOs and their subscribers.

The deadline for the re-registration exercise has already been pushed back multiple times, and a telecom expressed concern earlier this year that slow Ghana Card issuance was holding back the process.

Political parties speak out

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) is arguing that the National Communications Authority’s blockage of data and outgoing calls from SIMs that have not been re-registered is unlawful. Ghana Business News writes that the party disputes any legal backing of the process, including from the SIM Registration Regulations and the National Identity Register Regulations.

“We hold the view that this simple exercise of linking SIM Cards to the Ghana card of subscribers to check crime among others, could have been easily done by extracting the biometric data of persons who have registered for the Ghana card from the National Identification Authority and matching same with the database of the Telecos,” the party said in a statement.

A representative of the New Patriotic Party, meanwhile, called for the National Identification Authority to improve its issuance of Ghana Cards, particularly for pregnant women and people with disabilities, report MyjoyOnline.

An NDC youth representative urged government ministries to work together on Ghana Card issuance, and called for blocks on SIM cards to be delayed until the national ID is received by all those eligible. The National Identification Authority is running Ghana Card registration as an ongoing process with no end-date.

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