Members of the 10th parliament on Thursday evening unanimously supported a motion moved by Leader of opposition and Kasese Woman MP, Winnie Kizza to have the Simcard Verification Deadline extended.
Parliament’s decision came hours to the deadline set by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) in conjunction with the office of the Prime Minister to have telecommunications operators deactivate all unverified simcards.
According to UCC, over 1 million simcards had submitted requests for verification but couldn’t be verified because their details could not be found in the National Identity Card database.
The Commission further indicated that 15 million simcards had been verified although PC Tech Magazine understands that there are over 22 million registered simcards.
In her motion, Hon. Kizza said that a lot of illegalities have been cited in setting up the deadline the exercise that was meant to end at midnight tonight.
“Regulation 7(2) and (3) of the Regulation of interception of Communications Instrument No. 42 of 2011 provides that valid identification documents may include national identity card, work permit, passport, driving license, student identity card, certificate of incorporation and voter’s card yet in this case all other valid documents have been neglected,” she said.
“There is no law prohibiting persons below 18 years of age from acquiring and using mobile phone yet the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) only issues cards to citizens aged 18 years and above,” she added.
Hon Kizza’s motion was seconded by Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba, Manjiya County MP, John Baptist Nambeshe and Mukono County South MP, Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga before being adopted by the house for debate.
The MPs observed that NIRA has no capacity to register all Ugandans considering its constrained staffing as indicated in the Ministerial Policy Statement for Internal Affairs FY 2017/18.
This, they said slowed down the process of registration and hence verification.
Over the past weeks, multitudes of Ugandans flocked NIRA offices in Kololo with complaints ranging from wrong details on National IDs, lost IDs, Damaged IDs while others had never registered at all.
Visible on the site early this week, a group of over 900 people with concerns about their National IDs would be handled by a meager three people; and that on top of complaints that “the system is down”, “network has gone” among others.
In the Thursday Parliamentary session, Hon Kizza called upon parliament to resolve urging UCC to further extend the verification and validation deadline.
“Urge UCC to direct telecommunication companies to deactivate SIM card applications in a phased manner; the Minister responsible for ICT presents to Parliament a comprehensive status report on the SIM card registration, verification and validation exercise,” she said.
Government Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa agreed with the decision although urging that parliament lets government to decide the new deadline.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga however quashed Nankabirwa’s request saying the deadline should be issued as parliament asks.
She later suggested that the deadline be extended “for not more than one year.”
Government has however not made known its position on the same since Security Minister, Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde repeatedly mentioned that there was no chance for extension of the deadline.
Whether or not the deadline will be extended remains to be seen.