Some Ghanaians who are still trying to get their National Identification Card (Ghana Card), say they will withdraw their mobile money savings if they’re unable to secure the cards before the deadline.
Tomorrow (July 31, 2022) is the deadline for the registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards in Ghana, and the Ghana Card is the only national ID that is accepted for registering SIM Cards.
The Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, mentioned in her recent warning that all unregistered SIM cards will be blocked by July 31, 2022.
As the deadline draws near, card-seeking crowds are growing tremendously on NIA premises across the country.
The reasons for the subscribers’ presence at the centres vary. While some are in for card replacement, some are applying for the card for the first time. And while some want their cards to be updated, some are in the queue just for validation.
The El Wak Stadium, a multipurpose sporting facility in Accra, has been the main NIA referral centre for the Ghana Card issuance exercise. That is where complex challenges from centres across the country are addressed.
Some of the applicants who spoke to The Fourth Estate at the El Wak Stadium on Friday July 29, 2022, said the process had been terribly frustrating. Many of them said they had travelled to Accra from other regions and had been to the centre multiple times, but the NIA officials had not addressed their needs.
Some said they had received assurances from NIA officials at the centre that their problems would be resolved by Friday. Their frustration rather peaked when they were told at the end of the sunny day that their cards were still not ready.
Unable to contain it anymore, they stormed out of the stadium in their numbers and announced they were going to immediately withdraw all the savings in their mobile money accounts.
“This is my third time coming here from Winneba for my card. They said I had to pay Gh¢30 for it. I paid the Gh¢30. They said I should come in three weeks’ time. I came; they said I should go and come in three weeks again. Today, too, I’m here and they are saying it is not ready.
“Is there no mechanism they can put in place like an SMS? They can give you an SMS to inform you to come when your card is ready. And the so-called minister will say there is no extension. When you tell the truth in Ghana, they say you don’t respect,” one of the angry applicants, Ronald Agbodza, told The Fourth Estate Friday.
He added: “As I am talking to you, I’m going to defend my thesis at 1:00 pm today at the University of Education, Winneba. I have come to Accra and you are telling me to go and come again. From here, I’m going to the mobile money vendor to take all my money in the SIM [card] because if they block it (the SIM card), my money is locked. I have to make a susu [savings] box and put my money inside. That is what the so-called leaders want us to do.”
“It’s an Agenda to collapse Mobile Money Businesses.”
As a section of the crowd, who vowed to withdraw their savings before Sunday, took leave of the stadium, a slightly grey-haired man, who had opted to wait his turn inside a car for his Ghana Card, screamed to have his voice heard.
“Excuse me!” the man, who mentioned his name to The Fourth Estate as Frank Yullie, said with frustration. “We are Ghanaians. Why the rush? We spend the whole day here. You go, you come. You go, you come. Is it so necessary to the extent that only this Ghana Card is going to save Ghanaians?”
Asked if he also had plans to withdraw his funds from his mobile money account, he replied: “What do you expect? Obviously. If the line is blocked, I won’t have access to my money. After taking the E-levy from my money, at the same time, they want to keep the rest of the money in their pockets.
“This is a sabotage against mobile money businesses so that when people withdraw their monies, the businesses will collapse. That’s the implication,” he pointed out and exited the car to join an ongoing heated group discussion on the widespread dilemma.
After the departure of some from the centre without their cards, many of the stadium’s mostly yellow plastic seats remained occupied. The occupants anchored their hopes on the positive outcomes that came the way of those ahead of them in the queues.
But success went to only a lucky few.
While waiting, some fell asleep in their seats. Those who appeared to have missed their breakfasts for the Ghana Card had to rely on anything fit for consumption around to sail through the afternoon. The majority of the crowd spent hours just staring at the football lawn. It was like a stadium with spectators but without a football match.
A man in a smock, slim and dreadlocked, tucked a hand into his pocket and pulled out three cards― a Ghana Card, a voter identity card and a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card― and threw them on the ground in front of the crowd. He said government had only produced the cards for national crises and not for national identification. He repeated the act and the words several times, picked the cards and left the arena in fury.
“I have been here throughout the week,” said Mina Addai, a young woman who withdrew temporarily from the congested queues and took a seat in the sun. “We feel frustrated. The people providing the service are not enough. But I believe they will not block the SIM cards because a lot of people have borrowed huge sums of money from the service providers. The service providers will be at a loss if those SIM cards are blocked. I don’t think the service providers will allow that to happen.”
Occasionally, there were altercations among the crowds over suspected attempts by some people to sidestep the queues into the rooms being used by the NIA officials for the exercise. At times, tempers erupted at the venue, with angry individuals criticising government and the NIA officials over the manner the exercise was being done.
An NIA official apologised for what he called “technical hitches” and begged that the waiting crowd bear with the crew. It was not clear if his apology was unanimously accepted as some of the frustrated men and women rested their chins in their palms and were only looking at him in silence. Later, he provided another space, asking people to queue there. Nobody went there.
“We are all frustrated. What we expect is, after taking our contacts, just give us an SMS that our cards are ready. It is not our will not to register our SIM cards, but the mechanism in itself is a barrier. It means what I have to do is to withdraw all my money from mobile money between today and tomorrow,” Abdul-Majeed Mohammed said.