UCC ED Godfrey Mutabazi

The Easter holidays are done but one thing still lingers — SIM card registration. With a few days left to the April 20th deadline imposed by UCC, after which those who have not registered their SIM cards with will be disconnected by their respective carriers. So what happens to your precious MTN Mobile Money, Airtel Money , Africell Money, MSente or Smart Pesa account in case you have not been able to register your SIM with a national ID on time?

In a telephone interview with the New Vision, UCC boss Mr Godfrey Mutabaazi said that for those subscribers who use their SIM cards to carry out Mobile Money transactions and who will have not registered by 20th April, the regulator will work with Bank of Uganda to freeze whatever money they have on their accounts until they have the SIM cards registered.

This has pushed many Ugandans to register their SIM cards even over the Easter holidays. This has caused systems of some telcos to malfunction. Mr Mutaabizi said that the regulator had received complaints that the Airtel’s systems (USSD *197# registration) was temporarily down and they instructed the carrier to rectify the issue. Which was later rectified.

More than 5 million people would be switched off

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NIRA statistics indicate that close to 17 million people (16 years and above) registered for National IDs but the number of mobile phone subscribers stands at 22 million. Which means at least 5 million Ugandans who use either voice, data or mobile money services will be disconnected after the deadline. This is a huge loss to the telecos, especially the big players with massive numbers. According the initial directive, people below the age of 16, who don’t have National Identity Numbers (NINs), but own phones, can register using their parent’s details.

Several bodies have come out to criticize the move by UCC including the ICT Association of Uganda (ICTAU) and Uganda Law society. The Uganda Law society wrote to the commission informing it that the directive was not supported under the current exiting laws. According to the letter to UCC from the law society, “The current law that can be used is the Regulations of  Interception of Communications Instrument No. 42 of 2011. This law under regulation 7 (3) allows valid identification documents recognized and issued by the Government agencies such as national IDs, work permits, national passports, driving licences, Students Identity cards and voter cards to be used for registration.”

In his response to the Law Society letter, Eng. Mutabazi said the registration of personal Act 2015 allowed the use of the “harmonizing” NIN. He said that “The Act, makes it mandatory for persons to produce National IDs to access any public service or office and documents, etc”.

Repeatedly, the regulator also banned the vending of SIM cards on the streets. So far, several people have been arrested and charged by Uganda Police in bid to enforce the UCC directive. Banning of street vending of SIM cards averts the risk associated with the use of unregistered SIM cards.