The measure, according to Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful, Minister of Communications, will help monitor and track down persons who use their phones for criminal activities.
Identification forms acceptable for re-registration or fresh SIMs will be by approved national biometric identity cards.
Mrs Ursula Ekuful announced government’s decision at a press briefing Monday, and explained that the valid ID cards will include Driver's Licence, SSNIT, Passports, and the Ghana Card. A detailed programme will be rolled out by the National Communications Authority, and will be conducted with the telecommunication companies.
According to the Minister, Ghana enacted the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration Regulations, 2011 (L.I. 2006) primarily to reduce mobile phone related crimes such as prank calls, cyber-crime, mobile money fraud and its related issues and general security.
She said the enactment was also intended to help the law enforcement agencies to identify the SIM card owners, track criminals who use phones for illegal activities, curb incidents such as phone theft, hate text messages, mobile fraud activities, inciting violence, and to combat crime such as SIM Box fraud.
“SIM registration also enables subscribers to be properly identified for the use of value added services such as mobile banking, mobile money, and electronic payment services. Due to the crucial nature of SIM registration and its security implications for the country, MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) were required to ensure SIMs were registered properly before activation on the mobile network to avoid inconsistencies and fake subscriber identity.
“Even though the SIM Registration regulations are still in force, it is not being enforced due to the lack of an acceptable, fake proof, Identification card and non-existence of verification by a national database to ensure the traceability of the individual who registered the SIM card.“Currently, there is no solution in place to integrate all the databases of Card Issuing Agencies for the seamless verification of IDs used for registration of SIMs to be effectively conducted.
In addition to this, the Ministry of Communications has noted other deficiencies of the existing SIM card registration regime in Ghana including the sale of pre-registered SIM cards, the use of pre-registered SIM cards and fraudulent registration of SIM cards. All of these activities are proscribed by law. These deficiencies facilitate fraudulent activities perpetuated through the use of mobile phones such as mobile money fraud, illegal SIM swap, illegal termination of international traffic (SIM-Boxing) leading to loss of revenue to the state, impersonation and cyber-crime.”
Mrs Owusu Ekuful said though some IDs submitted for registration of SIMs may have been valid, however due to the poorly implemented manual verification process, millions of SIMs registered have been rendered invalid because of non-verification of these IDs electronically with the databases of the Card Issuing Agencies.
“The Ministry has consulted all relevant stakeholders and hereby announces that from 1st January 2020, we will all be required to re register our SIM cards. Any SIM card which is not registered will be deactivated by June 2020, giving a six month time frame for this exercise. We entreat all citizens, residents and visitors to cooperate to ensure the success of this exercise for our collective security”, she said.