The Ugandan government has insisted on switching off unregistered sim-cards at midnight on Friday, May 19.
“The deadline of 19 May set by government will be enforced at Midnight,” said the Minister of Information and ICT, Hon Frank Tumwebaze on Friday afternoon.
“This is therefore to confirm that the deadline stands and all unregistered, unverified and un-validated SIM cards will be switched off initially for voice communications,” he added.
“In other words the holders of those cards will not be able to receive or make calls.”
Tumwebaze’s statement comes against the backdrop of Parliament’s resolution to extend the registration exercise for not more than one year.
This was after MPs revealed that many of their constituents were to obtain national identity cards, the main requirement for registration of simcards.
The lawmakers said there were no law prohibiting persons below 18 years from acquiring and using mobile phones yet the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) only issues cards to citizens aged 18 years and above.
Members further argued that NIRA has no capacity to register all Ugandans since it has constrained staffing as indicated in the Ministerial Policy Statement for Internal Affairs Financial Year 2017/18 which raises a risk of hindering the verification and validation process of sim-cards.
But Tumwebaze said government had taken measures to ease the registration, verification and validation process for citizens as demanded by Parliament and citizens.
He said one of the measures 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#,” said Tumwebaze.
On mobile money transactions, the Minister said 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.”
He said 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,” he added.
Tumwebaze also clarified that while the switch off will disable voice communication on the affected SIM cards, the exercise of verification continues 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.”
Officials say the registration exercise is meant to combat criminality and strengthen national security safeguards.
Quoting UCC records, Tumwebaze said submissions from telecoms stand at 92 percent of all active SIM cards in the country.