Sim Card Scam, blame it on NIRA

When the Daily Montor reported about the illicit methods being used to get simcards through the use of forged Refugee Identity cards, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) swiftly folowed with a ban on the use of those IDs to register for simcards.

Good move but half baked in my view. If one assesses the cause of this scam through a root cause analysis, you end up at the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).

In this article I wrote earlier, I clearly exposed the pain citizens go through to get National IDs. When I eventually got a chance to get mine after an 8 months wait, a young man who had waited for two years broke down into tears on hearing his name being mentioned. He later told me how he had missed three opportunities to go and work in the Middle East because of lack of an ID. His friends who had gone earlier were already constructing homes from their earnings yet he was still stuck.

The carefully crafted inefficiencies at NIRA aimed at perpetrating a cabal of extortionists who charge upto UGX 1.5M to get an ID within a week is what has led Ugandans to seek solutions elsewhere.

I still insist that the three months NIRA says are required to get an ID (which end up being more than a year for many) is too much time in this era of technology. Someone close to me who has been waiting for his ID over five months decided to take a taxi ride to Busia and use his passport to purchase a Kenyan Sim Card in his names. In the meantime, he is still stuck with opening up a Bank Account.

If the unexplainable delays to get IDs were not present at NIRA, more citizens would easily be getting them and as a result not have a need to use underhand approaches to get simcards and other services.

If UCC is genuine about solving this problem, it has to go into discussions with NIRA, the National Information Technology Authority (NITA), Ministry of ICT & National Guidance and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to work out modalities on how NIRA’s performance can be improved.

Any measures short of this will be akin to pissing in the wind. Something has to be done now about these bureaucratic inconveniences at NIRA which are causing more insecurity than security.

James Wire is a Business and Technology consultant based in Kampala

Follow him on Twitter @wirejames

Email – lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com