Kwame Osei-Prempeh, Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislative Committee of Parliament

Ghana has taken a bold step towards tightening regulations of its telecommunications industry, by introducing a Legal Instrument (L.I) in Parliament that seeks to sanitise the industry, and also protect the lives and properties of cellular phone users.Known as the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulations, 2011 (L.I. 2006), the instrument requires all network providers, by law, to fully register subscribers on their networks before activation, so as to keep a subscriber database.

Per Section (1) of the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Regulations, 2011 (L.I. 2006), “a network operator or service provider shall not activate a Subscriber Identity Module for a subscriber, unless the subscriber, (a) completes registration of the Subscriber Identity Module in accordance with these regulations; and (d) complies with the directives given by the Authority under the Act, and the National Communications Authority Act, 2008 (Act 769) on the registration of the Subscriber Identity Module.

Failure to comply with the above directive by a network operator or service provider, according to the drafters of the instrument, commits an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of two thousand penalty units, and one thousand penalty units for each day the offence continues.

The instrument, now at the second reading on the floor of the House, requires from the subscriber, for the purposes of the registration of the Subscriber Identity Module, to give the network operator or service provider with the following information: (a) the name and residential or occupational address of the subscriber, (b) the date of (i) birth, in the case of an individual; (ii) incorporation, in the case of a body corporate, (iii) registration, in the case of a partnership or an unincorporated body of persons; and (c) an identification document.

Information of the subscriber, according to the instrument, can only be disclosed to a third-party upon the prior written consent of that subscriber, or where the said information is requested by law or by a court order, in line with the relevant provisions of the laws of the country.

A thirty-day grace period will be given to subscribers to register their SIMs after the coming into force of the Instrument. Section 9 (1) enforces the network operator on the expiration of the thirtieth day after the commencement of the regulations, to disconnect a subscriber whose Subscriber Identity Module is not registered, in accordance with the regulations.

The Committee on Subsidiary Legislation, led by its Chairman, Kwame Osei-Prempeh, argued that the coming into force of the instrument would augment the efforts of law enforcement agencies in combating crime in the country.

“The records of subscribers would provide the relevant information necessary for effective crime combat to protect life and property, thus creating the enabling environment necessary for the socio-economic development of the country,” Mr. Osei-Prempeh observed, when presenting the committee’s report on the floor of the House yesterday.

According to the legal mogul, the registration of all SIMs will make subscribers more responsible for the use of such facilities, and would also enable the National Communications Authority (NCA) to maintain a proper database on subscribers for planning and for other purposes.

The L.I. has become necessary at a time the country’s telecommunication industry is flooded with unscrupulous people, who have taken advantage of this modern technology to commit crimes and carry out other anti-social acts. Statistics indicate that a number of people have recently been arrested and convicted of SIM boxing and other SIM-related crimes, through the use of unregistered SIMs. One person was recently arrested with three thousand six hundred SIM cards, engaging in illegal telecommunication operations in the country.

These illegal activities, according to government officials, result in huge loss of revenue to the state and the service providers. The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu, sometime ago told Parliament that the state loses about US$5 million a month, as a result of the fraudulent by-pass of international calls into the country.

Yesterday in Parliament, the sector Minister re-echoed why it had become necessary for the country to introduce the aforementioned instrument to bring sanity into the telecommunications industry.

According to him, one of the prime objectives in introducing the instrument was to facilitate the implementation of Mobile Number Portability, which, since its introduction in July, 2011, had afforded 150,000 cellular phone users to port their numbers from a poor service provider to a better service provider.

To him, the illegal SIM boxes had effected poor quality service, hence, the introduction of the instrument to provide a respite for consumers.

The new instrument comes into force effective February 3, 2012.

 

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