Uganda – SIM-Cards: Govt Extends Deadline Minutes Before Court Ruling

By | April 19, 2017

Government has announced an extension of the SIM-card verification exercise to May 19, 2017 from April 20.

The decision to extend the deadline rendered a High Court case filed in Kampala to stop implementation of the deadline “useless”, according to court’s Assistant Registrar Joy Kabagye Bahinguza.

The High Court ruling was read to both parties in the case at 3.30pm. It follows a letter presented  to court by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) lawyer Edwin Karugire signed  by the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda extending the on-going  sim-card verification exercise by 30 days.

UCC had been taken to court after they last week issued a 7-day ultimatum on SIM-card verification.

The applicant’s lawyer Eron Kiiza also welcomed this position saying their main concern was the deactivation of sim-cards by tomorrow, but since govt has seen the light of day to extend this time, he will address other concerns of documentation and identification in the main case fixed for hearing on May 15th, 2017 before Justice Stephen Musota.

Its on this basis that the assistant registrar Kabagye ruled that since the concern of the applicants has been addressed by government, their application is now over taken by events and each party should bear its own costs.

Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda made the announcement in a tweet hours before the High Court ruling on the same matter.

UCC had earlier defended the  move to use National IDs for SIM-card re-registration saying it is a superior identification document capturing all bio-metrics and personal identification particulars done at the local council  level.

UCC legal manager Victoria Sekandi told court that due to numerous security complaints UCC received from  Police,  coupled with the difficulty police finds in  investigating and detecting serious crimes like murder and terrorism,  stakeholders resolved that all telecom subscribers use national ID’s for SIM-card re-registration.

Sekandi had said she is aware that  since all Ugandans are entitled to National ID cards , there is no need to use passports which are travel documents issued by use of a national ID save for foreigners who are not entitled to this particular ID.

She had asked court not to block the exercise because granting the interim order will impede law enforcement organs from detecting serious crimes committed by mobile phone users.

The hearing of the Interim Order was in camera  with only UCC lawyers and the Jobless brotherhood applicants, appearing before the Assistant Registrar Joy Kabagye Bahinguza.

One of the Jobless Brotherhood’s founders Norman Tumuhimbise together with Rights Trumped Ltd went to court, saying the time frame issued by UCC  is inadequate to cover the millions of Ugandans who use mobile phones.

Through Nuwagaba and Mwebesa advocates, they had wanted court to issue an interim order against the 7-day ultimatum and orders permanently blocking such ultimatums  since it’s a continuous process for Ugandans to purchase mobile phones and sim-cards.

UCC last week ordered all Ugandan subscriber to re-register their sim-cards with their telecoms or risk being switched-off.

The Jobless Brotherhood describe themselves  as “a non partisan youth platform for exposing and curbing youth exploitation, manipulation, desertion, unemployment and corruption in Uganda.”

They are better known for the protests against graft and cronyism in which they drop piglets usually around parliament. The Brotherhood claims to have 5,000 members.

What’s was the complaint?

The Jobless Brotherhood challenged the act of UCC restricting Ugandans to only use National IDs as the official identification  document for this exercise  and denying them the right to use their passports and other official documents issued by the Ugandan government.

According to court documents,  they argued that the use of passports to register sim-cards is only a privilege of foreigners.

Tumuhimbise of the Jobless Brotherhood further argued that Ugandans in the dispora are also  being discriminated by this  7-day  ultimatum  since their  mobile phones will be switched- off without  registration centers set up abroad.

DP to join concerned citizens on today’s UCC case

The opposition Democratic Party revealed Tuesday they would join concerned citizens in challenging the directive by the Uganda Communications Commission.

Addressing a press conference at the DP Headquarters, Party President Norbert Mao said the other forms of identification like the passport and driving permit should be allowed in this exercise.

“The National ID is not the only form of identification. There are drivers’ licenses, there are passports.  Dp is going to apply to join the case by concerned citizens on a single ground that it is unconstitutional and has no legal basis,”said Mao.

The National Identification and Registration Authority ( NIRA) has said they will not rush their citizen verification process to cater for the sudden rush by Ugandans to register before the SIM-card verification deadline. NIRA have even tightened the requirements to check likely loopholes.

The NIRA headquarters at the Kololo Independence Grounds was on Wednesday a bee hive of activity with those seeking to get new Identification documents (IDs). Subscribers are scrambling to beat the Thursday deadline by the Uganda Communications Commission that will have all SIM-cards without synchronized National ID particulars disconnected.

Public Relations and Corporate Affairs Manager, Gilbert Kadilo said despite the long queues, NIRA will not seek reinforcements in terms of human personnel saying majority of the Ugandans who qualify for National IDs received them.

“I want to emphasize that NIRA is not going to make any extraordinary arrangements outside our current operation framework for purposes of SIM-card verification,” said Kadilo.

He however noted that those who fail to beat the Thursday deadline by UCC will still have their disconnected SIM-cards re-activated as soon they get their IDs or National Identification Numbers.

“Those that genuinely registered for national IDs and haven’t received them yet, can request for the national identification number as they wait for their National IDs. However, persons who applied yesterday, today and those who will apply tomorrow should not expect to get ID numbers immediately. We cannot compromise our process because of the validation exercise,” said Kadilo.

“I only want to reassure those who may miss the deadline for verification, if you receive your National Identification Number, you will be in position to use the information to reactivate your number”, said Kadilo.

Tighter security now at NIR

Kadilo also revealed that they have tightened the requirements for fresh applicants for National IDs which among other things require the applicant to seek the signature of the Gombolola Internal Security officer ( GIS0).

He said a letter signed by the LC1 chairperson with an attachment of either of one’s parents’ ID shall be taken to the sub-county for the GISO for counter endorsement.

“The Local council 1 (LC1) chairperson has to certify and his National identification number must be included on the letter because we now want to work backwards where we suspect that the information provided to us in citizenship is incorrect.”

He stated that those whose parents are deceased shall be required to present IDs of next of kin who must be older than the applicant.

According to Kadilo, NIRA has produced 16,815,976 ID cards all together including cards from the mass registration exercise and subsequently when NIRA embarked on continuous registration.

He said 14,000,531 cards have been issued to their owners whereas 1,543,931 cards haven’t yet been collected by the owners as of last week.

Source: The Indipendent

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