About 11 million active Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards yet to be re-registered with the Ghana Card risk disconnection and deletion tomorrow as the deadline for the exercise expires today.
Following this development, hundreds of people, majority of whom are trying to register their SIMs for the first time, have thronged some National Identification Authority (NIA) centres in a desperate attempt to secure their Ghana Card.
The national card is the only prerequisite identification document admissible for the completion of the re-registration of SIM cards.
When the Daily Graphic visited some of the NIA centres, including the Premium Centre of the authority at its head office at Shiashie, Accra and other premium centres in some regions, there were long queues of last-minute card acquirers dashing to complete the process.
Many of the subscribers had come to link their Ghana Card with their SIM cards to satisfy the NCA requirement before the May 31 deadline.
While the centre with the capacity to process 650 applications sees no crowds, the long queues at the place has compelled the NIA to erect canopies outside its halls to accommodate the increasing numbers.
The Executive Secretary of NIA, Professor Ken Agyeman Attafuah, expressed regret that such a large number of people would rush to pay a premium fee of GH¢280 for a service they could have accessed for free a few weeks back.
He said it was the attitude of some people to relax in obtaining the Ghana Card until the deadlines were near.
Prof. Attafuah said based on its daily operational capacity, including that of its key partners, CAL Bank, coupled with limited cards at the moment, the NIA would not be able to issue all the people calling at its premium centres with cards.
“At the moment, given the reality and the debt owed the private partners, the public needing the service are finding recourse to the premium registration service not by laid down procedures, but by the zest and urgency of their needs and we are trying to cope with this,” he explained.
The NIA Executive Secretary said the authority had a daily capacity of about 650 at its head office and a little less of that at other premium centres, making it impossible to issue the thousands of people applying for the cards before the SIM card re-registration deadline yesterday.
He explained, however, that since the deadline was due, the NIA had to mobilise additional hands to serve all the applicants at its head office premium centre yesterday.
Prof. Attefuah said apart from NIA offices where the Ghana Card services could be accessed for free, additional registration points were established with the approach of the SIM card re-registration deadlines to ease the pressure.
“As a responsive state institution, we take no delight in seeing Ghanaians going through the anguish of queuing. So we made these opportunities and facilities available in anticipation that people would take advantage for free,” Prof. Attafuah said.
However, he said it had become the phenomenon that any time the deadline was extended, people became lackadaisical making most of the centres “ghost towns”.
“We see a phenomenon where anytime the deadline for the SIM card re-registration was extended, the additional re-registration points plus the traditional NIA offices become ghost towns and whenever the deadline is approaching then we have a situation of an avalanche of demands and in some cases people stampeding even though this is at a cost,” he pointed out.
Prof. Attafuah said although the premium service required booking the NIA, looking at the high demand due to the deadline, had opened its doors to the hundreds of people to help them beat the deadline even though they had not booked appointments.
He said the NIA had brought in canopies and chairs to accommodate the extra load of numbers and give them some comfort.
“It is a regrettable situation but it is the reality and we have to deal with it. It is unfortunate that so many people have to be in the sun and queue for so long for a paid for service that had been traditionally and customarily available to the public at no cost,” Prof. Attafuah said.
The Public Relations Manager of AirtelTigo, Felicia Thornhill, told the Daily Graphic that a lot more subscribers of AritelTigo visited its premises to begin the re-registration exercise yesterday, unlike the previous weeks and months preceding the May 31 deadline.
She said to help get all subscribers registered to avoid deactivation which would not benefit the business, the
company had deployed most of its staff to the field to assist subscribers in the re-registration exercise.
Each staff has also been tasked to reach about 10 subscribers yet to complete the registration to remind them of the exercise and assist them to complete it.
“It will affect our business and so an extension would be appreciated as we have more customers who are yet to complete the registration exercise,” Ms Thornhill said.
At the inception of the SIM re-registration exercise on October 1, 2021, there were about 42 million active SIM cards in the country.
They were made up of SIM cards registered with identity cards (IDs) such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards, passports, driving licence, among others.
The National Communications Authority at whose behest the re-registration started, said a lot of the IDs were not verified at the time they were used to register the SIMs.
After the first phase of the exercise, there were about 36 million active SIM cards in circulation as of last month, out of which 25 million (69.6 per cent) have been duly reregistered.
This means that over 25.4 million SIM cards had completed both stages one and two of the SIM re-registration which was done with verified Ghana Cards.
The remaining 11 million, representing 30. 4 per cent, include active SIM cards exempted based on various demographics and active SIM cards that have not been registered with the Ghana Card using the current process.
Already the NCA has deactivated about 6.1 million SIM cards which belonged to subscribers that had completed only stage one of the current registration process.
Tomorrow's deadline for SIM cards re-registration follows a similar announcement of mass disconnection of unregistered SIM cards before April 17, 2023.
At the time, about 33.8 million, representing 79. 60 per cent had completed only the first phase of linking their Ghana Cards with the SIM cards, while 8.65 million subscribers, representing 20.40 per cent, had not linked their Ghana cards to their SIM cards.
The NCA, therefore, extended the deadline to rope in all subscribers.