The Minority in Parliament and the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) have urged the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation and the National Communications Authority (NCA) to stop blocking SIM cards that are yet to be reregistered.
They described the blockage as arbitrary and against the fundamental human rights of the people.
Addressing the press in Parliament yesterday, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said the imposition of the “punitive blockage” curtailed the fundamental human rights of the people and deprived them of the need to use their mobile handsets in the event of emergencies.
“They are simply punishing Ghanaians over their own failures and inability to synchronise data between the National Identification Authority (NIA) and mobile operators in Ghana and this punishment is unjustified.”
“This government is operating with the erroneous impression that Ghanaians and every person deserving the Ghana Card has one, but this is simply not the case.
“So when you make it compelling, as if you have readily made the Ghana Card available to every deserving Ghanaian and other persons who should register for purposes of SIM card access, that naivety is of the highest order,” he said.
”In recent times, it appears the success of the communications sector is haunting the members of the government, whereby the value of our democracy is being threatened by emasculation of the networks to intimidate subscribers whose freedoms are regularly subjected to database manipulations,” he added.
The Minority Leader expressed concern that instead of promoting the widespread use of communications services, there had been unnecessary requests for registration, re-registration and multiple registration of SIM “cards for contrived reasons palpably designed to discourage ownership and operation of SIMs for national identification purposes”.
He said it was an irony that in the search for increased revenue to meet its development needs, the government was imposing obstacles to the continuing growth of the telecommunications sector.
Stating that the International Telecommunications Union placed premium on emergency telecommunication, Mr Iddrisu said to completely cut telecommunication services to subscribers for no other reason than to limit usage by citizens was the lowest point in a nation’s telecommunications development.
He pointed out that mobile telephone and smartphones today were essential emergency tools owing to the fact that they had become a necessity in modern society, where people relied on those mobile handsets to solve critical situations, such as locating family members, the dosage of medication one had to take, alerting the security to armed robbery and facilitating remittances.
“So this government simply does not understand the weight of mobile telephony and telecommunication as an essential emergency tool. “I do not want to believe that the NCA and the Ministry of Communications are naïve in appreciating and understanding the significance of telecommunications and in particular the use of mobile phones,” he said.
While expressing worry over the appalling number of Ghanaians who had been queuing to have their SIM cards registered across the country, the Minority Leader said the provision of public good should not necessarily result in punitive sanctions of blockage of SIM cards.
He, therefore, called on the Ministry of Communications and the NCA to desist from treating the communications sector as “personal fiefdoms” at the peril of the country’s development.
“We expect more a professional and insightful approach to the management of the sector to avoid further worsening of the sector.
“The present level of competition leaves much to be desired; a return to the monopoly days or any operation of pseudo competitive environment or duopoly will be an unpardonable indictment,” he added.
PPP on challenges
The PPP, in a statement, said the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation and the NCA were well aware of the challenges associated with the acquisition of the Ghana Card by Ghanaians.
“It is, therefore, an abuse of power to impose timelines and sanctions in the SIM card re-registration exercise, without taking into consideration the challenges at the NIA in the acquisition of identity cards for the exercise, it emphasised.
The PPP, therefore, called on the ministry and the NCA to come up with a system to ensure that the SIM card re-registration was made a continuous one, easy to re-register and accessible to all citizens.
The statement, signed by the party’s Communications Director, Emmanuel Felix Kofi Mantey, said the party believed that government policies introduced must better the lives of citizens and not worsen their plight.
It, therefore, urged the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation to demonstrate a commitment to serve the interests of Ghanaians, instead of being harsh.
Proceed to court
“It is important to note that the SIM card re-registration is only an exercise to upgrade customer information on all SIM cards already registered in the country, and that under the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulation 2011, LI 2006 regulating SIM card registration, it does not allow the minister to impose sanctions on any customer who, through no fault of his, has his SIM card not re-registered.”
“At best, if the minister and the NCA believe a certain directive has not been complied with by customers, they can proceed to court for direction, since owning a SIM card borders on the fundamental human rights of citizens. In fact, the law allows the minister to sanction the service provider which does not register a SIM card before activation and not the customer,” the statement said.