The National Communications Authority (NCA) has today redirected telcos to stop blocking the outgoing calls of persons who are yet to complete the registration of their SIM cards.

Techgh24 learnt from very reliable sources on Sunday, September 11, 2022 that Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful and her implementing agency, NCA were going to eat humble pie and call off their ‘illegal’ sanctions following the huge backlash.

The NCA, acting on behalf of the Minister, who described herself as “the headmistress of the stubborn academy” when she issued the threat of sanctions, directed telcos to start blocking the outgoing calls of SIM cards not fully registered from September 5, 2022.

The plan was to block outgoing calls from such SIM cards for two days every week until the September 30 deadline when they will be completely blocked from all services.

But in the process, the telcos started blocking even SIM cards which are fully registered and have confirmation messages reading “B-Cap: Yes”.

Again, SIM cards belonging to persons who have registered with National Identification Authority (NIA) and are waiting to receive their Ghana Cards before going to register their SIM cards, were also blocked due to no fault of theirs.

Lawsuits and Class Action

The sanctions were met with huge public outcry, with some customers storming the offices of the telcos, particularly MTN to register their frustration.

There has since been one lawsuit filed by the People’s Project, a pressure group led by musician and social activist, Kwame A-Plus. They are asking the Supreme Court to declare the Minister’s September 30 deadline for SIM Registration null and void.

Meanwhile, the Vice President of IMANI Ghana, Selorm Branttie is also rallying a number of aggrieved Ghanaians to file a class action lawsuit against what they described as the illegality perpetrated by the Minister and her implementing agency, the NCA and the telcos.

Selorm argued that subscribers have already signed contracts with telcos and prepaid for the services without the involvement of the Minister and NCA, so the latter cannot instruct the telcos to breach the contracts they have with subscribers.

Lead Advocate at SqueakGh, Samuel Dowuona also called on the Minister and NCA to withdraw the sanctions and go back and do their homework to ensure the sanctions, if any, are applied properly.

Indeed, per the Minister’s own demands, against huge public outcry, the only valid ID for SIM registration is the Ghana Card, which is issued by NIA, an agency of the Ministry of Interior, and has all of the subscriber’s biometric data.

The NIA has registered several people who are yet to be issued with Ghana Cards before they can go and do SIM registration. NIA does not work with deadlines because it was not built as such. But Ursula Owusu-Ekuful ignored all that still ordered the telcos to block SIM cards belonging to those persons as well.

Again, even though the Ghana Card has all the biometric data of all registered persons, the Minister and NCA has spent state resources to subject Ghanaians into submitting their bio-data to telcos to be captured again through an app built by a private-sector agent of the NCA, in an exercise largely described as unnecessary, time wasting and money wasting.

Self-Service

After causing undue delays in the regular registration process with their problematic app, which caused lots of Ghanaians untold frustration, the Minister promised to introduce a self-service app on August 2, 2022; but failed to meet her own deadline and brought the app towards the end of August.

The App was also launched only on the Google Play Store, meaning persons using iPhone cannot have access to use it even if they want to.

It costs GHS5 to complete registration on the App. A few people have reported using it smoothly on the first attempt, while a lot of users have complained of having to try several times and pay GHS5 for every single attempt before they are able to register.

One person reported pay GHS15 and still unable to register and another reported paying GHS20 before she could finally register. And the app does not give refunds.

Upon all these systemic shortcomings, the Minister and her agent, the NCA hurriedly sanctioned people holding unregistered SIM cards, instead of finding ways to rather make it easier for people to register quickly, like fixing both the regular and self-service app, removing the needless GHS5 charge on the self-service app and having the self-service app on Apple Store.

Meanwhile, the NCA is now blaming the telcos for blocking the calls of persons who had completed their SIM registration.

The NCA said its instructions did not include persons whose registration confirmation messages read “B-Cap: Yes”, so those with that status whose calls got blocked should blame telcos responsible and not the NCA.

The telcos have remained tight-lipped on the matter, because the last time they explained to journalists that the long queues as registration centers were because of the slowness of the NCA’s app, and its non-compatibility with a lot of handheld devices, the NCA was not amused by it.

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