Ghana’s attempt to issue national identity (ID) cards dates back to 1973, and a lot has happened since then, resulting in the process of issuing current generation of identity cards, which started on July 4, 2011.
In April 2019, the mass registration by the National Identification Authority (NIA) for the Ghana Card started in Accra and subsequently taken to the other parts of the country.
Since then, a combination of certain factors have delayed some qualified applicants, 16-year-olds and older, to acquire the cards.
These include systems failure, attitude of NIA workers, lack of the understanding of the usefulness of the Ghana Card and lack of any law making its acquisition obligatory or non-acquisition an offence.
Besides the Ghana Constitution, 1992, the National Identification Authority Act, 2006 (Act 707), the National Identity Register Act, 2008 (Act 750), the National Identity Register Regulations, 2012 (LI 2111) and the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) all legally back the Ghana Card but none of them touches on its compulsory acquisition.
However, certain circumstances are tacitly pushing for compulsory acquisition without any law saying so.
Both public and private-sector organisations are demanding it as they intend to ensure their security and that of their clients or customers, particularly in financial transactions and minimise the risk of financial loss caused by identity theft and financial fraud.
The Ghana Card comes in as a good biometric tool for dealing with identity issues.
Now, the Bank of Ghana (BoG), the country’s central bank, has directed that with effect from July 1, 2022, which is today, the Ghana Card shall be the only identification card that will be used to undertake transactions at all BoG-licensed and regulated financial institutions.
Earlier, the telecommunications companies in the country had asked that all their customers register their SIM cards with Ghana Card and given the deadline as July 31 after which non-registered SIM cards cannot function.
Since June 28, this year, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has been replacing contributors’ unique scheme identification numbers with the Ghana Card identification numbers and the process of merging the two identification numbers will continue until December 3, this year.
In fact, some many important transactions in the country, including the application for student loan, demand the Ghana Card.
Yesterday, the Ghanaian Times noticed a mad rush for the Ghana Card at the NIA Headquarters, probably to meet the July 1, deadline set by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to use it as the only national ID for all financial transactions in the various banks.
There were queues and applicants had to pay as much as GH¢250 for the card whose acquisition was free during the mass registration period.
The problem now may be due to the negligence on the part of NIA to educate the public enough about the need to acquire the cards in good time.
Currently, there is confusion about what is going to happen now that the BoG deadline, for instance, has expired.
Will bank customers who have not linked their accounts to the Ghana Card be able to transact financial business or not?
What happens when the July 31 deadline given by the telecos elapses when one has not registered the SIM card?
There are misconceptions and misinformation about the whole situation as a result of the lack of the right information to inform the public about what to do and in good time.
The country’s quest to have a national ID card of the calibre of the Ghana Card has been pursued for too long for the system to experience related problems as if everything is just new.