Ghana Card registrants in the Ashaiman Municipality of the Greater Accra region are sharing their frustrations at the very slow pace of the process and are appealing to the National Identification Authority (NIA) to provide additional workstations.
The registrants – including nursing mothers, the aged and youthful - wear their frustrations openly, murmuring and cursing at the snail-paced process, many among them doubting the 31st March, 2022 deadline by the government for SIM number re-registration, will still hold.
“There is no way some of us will be captured by the deadline. How are they going to be able to do that? I registered at Lebanon (in Ashaiman) last year but was directed to come here for the card. I have been coming here since. Why, is it a punishment? Why, more than one year now and every time they tell you to go and come. Are we not supposed to work?”
The above by Ibrahim Iddrisu from Atadeka New Land, who said he was as angry as frustrated, sums up the despair of the many who thought the process could do with a lot of improvements.
The long queue at the centre just across the Ashaiman Senior High School looked orderly, except that it did not move much. Here were hundreds of registrants at various stages of the process, some only to pick up their cards if only printed, others yet to capture their biometrics after filling the forms, and others yet to start the process altogether.
Except the early birds who were fortunate to be seated, the majority were huddled up, coronavirus or not. Some said they had been trooping to the centre from as early as 4am. And it is an everyday affair – Mondays to Fridays.
Mrs. Esther Naa Merley Bonsu, a teacher waiting to pick up her card, said “the whole process is just not fast. And I also think that maybe the personnel are too few. I had the opportunity to go inside and only one person is filling the forms…The crowd here is too much, I appeal to the authorities to bring more personnel.”
She said bringing more staff in would help reduce the stress on both staff and registrants.
“We’re already in the festive season and look at the way we’re trooping in here up and down. You leave your children at home, not to think of transportation and look at the way we are going up and down. It’s been more than a month now. I first came here in November, came back on the 17th of November and was still told to go and come back because they were dealing with people they had registered already, it was only last week that I had the opportunity to register and they said I should come for the card today. So I’m here.”
Madam Barikisu Abubakari, also from Lebanon, said the process was too frustrating. She was making her fifth visit to the centre to try and pick up her card. She had come with others who, frustrated, had abandoned the process to go and pursue other chores. She said she and the others like her, even though arrived early in the morning, had been told they would be attended to at about 1pm.
It is very worrying, she said, adding that there is no money but they must bear the cost of transport to and from the centre as often as they are asked to go check things up.
Next to her, Madam Olivia cuddled her infant while several others sat on the stairs of shops and offices sharing space with the Ghana Revenue Authority and NIA.
Olivia also insisted the frustrating process threatened the success of the registration in the municipality. According to her, many were those who had simply given up after being told to go and come repeatedly. So frustrating has the process been that a lot of the cards that had been printed were not being collected because the owners were tired with the system.
She also suggested more workstations would help expedite the process.
And there is the story of Mr. David Yaw Degbeh, a worker of the Tema Steel Works, who said his frequent excuses at the workplace to be allowed to check on his card was beginning to raise eyebrows as though he was being untruthful. But this “tossing up and down” has been going on for about one year now. He had registered in September, 2020.
Mr. Evans Ayittey from Appolonia who was in to check on his wife's card, alleged that people had been sleeping at the centre just so they could go through the process. On Thursday, he was told to go and come after one week. “The same thing they told me last week.”
There were similar stories from Robert Gblie Nagadzi whose form indicated he registered in 2019, and 70-year-old Mr. Edward Quansah who said he had endured enough of the “go-and-come”.
The Member of Parliament for Ashaiman, Ernest Norgbey, who shared the frustrations of his constituents, explained that he had also appealed to the NIA authorities to intervene and had been assured of a solution.
In his estimation, setting up additional workstations is a great solution, “otherwise they should extend the deadline.”
According to Mr. Gladstone Agboada – Public Relations Officer of the NIA in the Municipality, the centre is able to register between 25 and 35 people per day and they have never run short of registrants.
For him, the major challenge at the centre was registrants who presented unqualified guarantors to support their registration. He said some came with mere acquaintances and neighbours when the law was specific that such guarantors should be relatives or public servants of certain repute.
That, for him, was the major cause of the slowed process.
And apart from occasional network challenges, there were no issues with equipment malfunction. Additionally, while it was not his place to recommend additional staffing or work stations, he was aware the centre served a wide catchment area with a large population.