The decision by government to extend the deadline for verification of sim cards has been received with mixed feelings from citizens and stakeholders in the telecommunication industry.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda today issued a letter directing Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to extend the verification to May 19, 2017.
The Commission had last week issued a seven-day ultimatum for all phone users who had earlier registered their SIM cards to verify them using National Identity Numbers (NINs) obtained from National Identity Cards.
The ultimatum raised anxiety among Ugandans who thronged National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) headquarters in Kololo as well as other offices at districts to pick or register for national identity cards.
Uganda Law Society President Francis Gimara said the decision to extend the deadline puts Ugandans in a better position than where they had been during the seven-day ultimatum.
“We want to thank government for listening and removing the painful ultimatum. We will use this time to engage government and iron out other issues we raised in our letter,” he said.
The issues raised in the April 13th letter include a request that government fast-track the process of passing the Data Protection Bill 2015 and crafting a comprehensive law to govern SIM card registration.
The high court civil division assistant registrar Joy Kabagye who was meant deliver a ruling in an application filed by Trumped Rights Limited and Jobless Brotherhood founder Norman Tumuhimbise challenging the seven-day ultimatum, did not do so because of the government’s decision to give citizens more time to verify their SIM cards.
Tumuhimbise thanked Dr Rugunda for taking action, noting, however, that this was the opposite of what the prime minister had said the previous day.
Oketch Martin, a resident of Lungujja in Lubaga Division, said the one-month added time is still not enough.
“I have been told that I will get my identity card after two months. Does that mean that my SIM card will be switched off after one month? We need three months to complete registration of our cards,” he said.
But NIRA Public Relations and Corporate Affairs Manager Gilbert Kadilo said there is no leeway for shortening the duration of issuing national identity cards.
“Issuing national identity cards is a process. The information submitted by applicants is verified first,” Kadilo said. “We shall do what we can within the extension time; we cannot give everyone Identity Cards in a month because of the process and procedure we follow before giving them out.”
Kadilo urged Ugandans to spare time and register for national IDs.
Anwar Soussa, the Airtel Uganda managing director says one month extension is enough time for Ugandans to register and verify their SIM cards.