The ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze
ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze (File Photo)

Yesterday’s events saw the Members of Parliament pass a motion to extend the SIM card verification exercise by one year, but from the looks of things Government wants to stick to its original May 19th deadline. The government through the office of the ICT minister has released a statement in this regard.

Its says in part that “The overall objective of this exercise is purely to provide national security safeguards. While mobile phone telecommunications is one of the most commonly used methods of communication among citizens and has greatly revolutionized the way businesses are run, negative elements have also taken advantage of the same means of communication to plan, coordinate, finance and execute their criminal activities with ease and sophistication.”

It’s noticed by security agencies that the practice for the criminals has been to acquire new Sim Cards that are either unregistered or fraudulently registered with wrong and falsified identities for use in the execution of their criminal operations and thereafter discard them so that they are not traced. The sustainable solution to this criminality is to ensure that all SIM cards and their users are properly registered using the correct identities. Thus the need for Verification and validation even for sim cards in use.

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While the government had set the first deadline a month ago, it was found prudent to give an extension of one month so as to enable many Ugandans that had registered for the national IDs but had not collected them.
The Minister’s said in his statement that “I am glad to report that good progress has been registered with many Ugandans responding positively. From UCC records submissions from telecoms stand at 92% of all active SIM cards in the country.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank all Ugandans that took heed of this clarion call and verified their SIM cards.”

Deadline remains as is

The deadline of 19th May set by government will be enforced at Midnight today and all unregistered, unverified and un-validated SIM cards will be switched off initially for voice communications. In other words the holders of those cards will not be able to receive or make calls.
As a measure however, to mitigate loss of money for those with Mobile Money deposits, the service will not be switched off for the unregistered, unverified and un-validated SIM cards. A transition period will be allowed for those Mobile Money customers to either withdraw their balances or transfer them to registered SIM cards or to their banks.While withdrawal or transfer of Mobile Money balances on unregistered/unverified numbers will be enabled, loading/depositing of more money will be disabled on the unverified cards.
Government also assures the citizens and Honorable Members of Parliament that no funds deposited on Mobile Money will be lost in this exercise. The regulator, UCC has been instructed by government to inform all the telecom operators accordingly.
Another measure taken by government to ease the registration, verification and validation process for citizens as demanded by Parliament and citizens, is for NIRA to allow new ID applicants whose IDs are still pending processing to use their application form numbers. Once they get their IDs, with the National Identification Number (NINs) then they can re-submit online using the USSD code *197#
The government has further assured that public that while the switch off will disable voice communication on the affected SIM cards, the exercise of verification will continue just as registration of citizens is continuous. Any citizen with the requisite registration/verification documents will then approach their service provider to either register for any new SIM card or verify their old but switched off cards.
Citizens can contact NIRA at their district offices. In addition UCC has allocated NIRA a short code *216# to enable citizens to know the status of their application process.