SIM card blocking brouhaha: Apply to NCA for exemption if…. …Communications Minister urges affected subscribers

The Minister of Commu­nications, Mrs Ursula Ow­usu-Ekuful, has entreated persons who have applied for the Ghana Card, but have not been issued with same leading to their Subscriber Identifi­cation Number (SIM) cards blockage, to apply to the National Communications Authority (NCA) for exemption.

Many registered and unregistered sub­scribers, including the Speaker of Parlia­ment, Alban Bagbin, effective June 1, 2023, were blocked from accessing telecommuni­cations services for their failure to register their SIM cards in the SIM re-registration exercise, which started in 2021.

Briefing Parliament in Accra, yesterday, on the exercise, which she said has recorded “resounding success,” Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said it had become necessary to create an exemption regime to subscribers who may have taken the step but let down by man­dated institutions to issue them with the registration document.

“Those who have genuine challenges acquiring the Ghana Card to complete the SIM registration process should contact the NCA with evidence of application for the Ghana Card and their challenges would be addressed after investigation,” Mrs Owu­su-Ekuful said.

So far, the minster, who is also the Mem­ber of Parliament for Ablekuma West, said 999,419 exemptions to subscribers across all categories of exemptions have been granted.

They are subscribers, who have applied for exemption because of Ghana Card challenges, 387, the Diplomatic Corps, 3,179, Staff of Ghana Mission and Armed Forces abroad, 102, refugees, 6,411, SIMS abroad, 322,524 and mobile money agents and merchants, 666,816.

Since the final deadline, the minister said increased activity indicates 225,114 blocked SIMs are being reactivated following the completion of all the necessary processes.

The breakdown includes MTN 117,399, Vodafone 77,410, and AirtelTigo, 30,335.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said: “However, is important to note that not all the blocked SIMs are expected on the network as some of these SIMs were pre- registered SIMs being used for fraud, some were also for subscribers who may not want to use these SIMs again.”

She said information available to her, indicated that over 280,000 merchant SIMs have not been registered and a viral video doing the rounds of social media a few weeks ago revealed that some criminal networks have acquired merchant SIMs to facilitate their fraudulent activities.

“Let me reiterate once again that all un­registered merchant SIMs will be blocked permanently at the end of June 2023,” she stated.

According to the minister, of the total 42,416,259 SIMs at the start of the re-registration exercise, 28,948,142 SIMs have fully been registered, 7,995,679 SIMs have been unregistered and blocked and a further 4,473,219 SIMs have been delinked and removed.

To ensure the safe keep of the data, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the NCA has estab­lished a SIM Registration Forensic Audit Team to validate the integrity of the service provider’s data in the Central SIM Register database; and identify discrepancies or in­consistencies between the service providers’ database and the Central SIM Register database.

Extolling the importance of the SIM re-registration exercise, she said it would contribute significantly to enhancing na­tional security by reducing the anonymity of mobile phone users.

The exercise would also make available accurate subscriber information system to aid law enforcement agencies in inves­tigating and preventing criminal activities amongst other benefits and promote re­sponsible use of SIM cards for the benefit of all, she added and urged all to join to ensure a safe telecommunication space.

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