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Opinions Thu, 2 Nov 2017

The registration of sim cards and our attitude as Ghanaians

THE REGISTRATION OF SIM CARDS AND OUR ATTITUDE AS GHANAIANS

Nothing fills the soul of many students with gaiety than the statement from a lecturer signaling the end of a class.

“Okay let’s meet next week, read the two slides left before you come for class next week”, stated the Politics and Development lecturer. My colleagues were filled with great merriment as if it was what we called ‘our day’ in primary school. Many erupted into a guffaw of mirth because the lecturer didn’t give any assignment.

I was reluctant to go home though my friend (home-going partner) was ready. “Let’s go home Bushra, few minutes to 12 noon” she requested. I responded that the sun was firing on all cylinders, hence won’t go home now. Little did she know I was giving that excuse because I had no money for transport. My pocket was drier than the Kalahari Desert. That was why I put up that lame excuse. Lame because in the score plus few years I spent in Ghana, I am yet to experience a snowy day. It has almost always been sunny. And the sun is always blazing on all guns. So how could I decline going home because of the scorching sun?

As if she worked herself into my mind, she adamantly insisted that we move. I finally agreed on the condition that, we join the school’s shuttle. The shuttle buses students to Kwame Nkrumah circle to continue their journeys home.

I was so frustrated on the bus that none of the questions and statements made by my friend was responded by me. She had no idea of the kind of situation I was in. To borrow a line from my little studies in science, my pocket was empty, hollow and vacuous.

My pride also didn’t allow me to at least borrow money from her. Only God knew how I was going to continue my journey from Circle. How do I tell my friend I have no fare? Or to at least lie to her that my money was missing. Those were the thoughts that kept running in my mind. My head was spinning like a rubber ball. My mind was like how Mutabaruka described “like a sponge. Irritating. Like a mirror, reflecting” on how l could lift myself from the doldrums as I sat in the bus.

Just then I heard a beep on my phone. I had just received a message. Serendipity! I had received 50 cedis through mobile money. This is something I didn’t ask for; I didn’t even expect it. I was about going through the window out of my heightened state of jollity when my cousin called and told me he was the one who sent the money and wanted to verify if I had received it. “Yes, I did, you are a saviour, and you just saved a life”, i responded with all the elation in me. He giggled and ended the call. You can imagine how happy I was.

My life was back. I cocked up my ear to now listen to my friend. I then told her to escort me to withdraw some money from my mobile money wallet when we alight. She nodded. When we alighted, my friend noticed a mobile money joint and instructed that we go there.

At that mobile money point, the lady sold recharge cards, sim cards as well as mobile money. My attention was fixated so much on the money I was withdrawing that, I didn’t pay close attention to what the lady was doing. My friend, I believe, saw what the lady was doing so she got more interested, wanting to know the exact thing the lady was doing and prompted me to also have a look. Noticing the confusion on my face, my friend came closer to me and whispered in my ears.

Curiously, I asked her if she was registering the sim cards, and she replied in the affirmative. Again, I asked why she was doing that because I felt it wasn’t the right thing to do. I again asked, "why not wait for the person to show interest in buying the sim and then register the person as the National Communications Authority (NCA) indicated?" She didn’t answer any of the questions.

Ghana like any other country embraced Information Communication Technology to be one of the driving forces for economic growth, hence the need to liberate and adopt new measures of curbing some problems associated with that. One of these measures the nation resolved to solve and get a specified database as far as the usage of sim cards and phones are concerned, was to register all sim cards of citizens in the country.

This, in effect, saw the National Communications Authority introduce the Sim card registration exercise in July 2010. It also announced during its sensitization program prior to the start of the registration that, the exercise will help solve situations such as loss of phones through theft, nuisance text messages, scams etc. One outstanding benefit the NCA outlined was the fact that, getting your phone number back will be easy because if you lose your phone or have it stolen, you can have a new chip with the same number since that number has been registered with your name.

The information you provide to your network operators during your registration is enough proof that you own that number.

The question is, will those who buy already registered sim card from the lady my friend and I saw be able to gain their sim cards back should they lose their phones or have them stolen?

When the National Communications Authority introduced the registration of sim cards, many Ghanaians heaved a sigh of relief, believing that it will limit the numerous criminal activities associated with the use of mobile phones. However, with people like the lady my friend and I saw still in this country, I doubt those activities will ever be limited or curbed.

The licensing requirements of all telecommunication operators as provided in the Electronic Communications Act, Act 775, 2008 mandates all telecom operators to keep the data of their subscribers. So, this in effect means to be able to keep the data as required by the acts, then the need for registering the sim cards is ideal. How then do they have the correct and credible data if illegal agents continue to use fake bio-data to register sim cards and then sell it to people, mostly foreigners, without the required ID card?

To think that there are several others who know the right thing but will still go and buy the illegally registered ones makes it more serious.

Sometimes I wonder why we as a people don’t like to follow the laid down procedures in doing things. This is just simple instructions for our own good and you will still find people like the lady we saw backsliding. And when things don’t go well, we tend to sing our normal chorus; “the government should have done this, the government should have done that “.

If we really want the systems or institutions to work in this country, then I believe we should change our attitudes first. Do we need more words to demonstrate how important attitudinal change is? I believe the forbears of our nation have already told us to be great as a country, attitude is key.

On the day Ghana was declared independent, the first President stated that “And, as i pointed out, from now on, today, we must change our attitudes and our minds. We must realize that from now on we are no longer a colonial but free and independent people.” I think these words alone suffice it.

Columnist: Bushira Muhammed Zuka