Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has been directed to investigate the existence of active sim-cards that are not properly registered and are being used by criminals.
“All telecom operators are on notice, if they don’t switch off illegally acquired sim-cards they will be penalized and or have their licenses revoked. Cabinet has taken this position and we will enforce it without exception,” Minister of ICT and National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze tweeted on Tuesday.
At a press briefing earlier on Tuesday, Tumwebaze revealed that cabinet was concerned about reports of illegal sim-cards still active in the market and being used by criminals to hide their identity.
Tumwebaze said he had directed UCC to commence investigations into how some alleged Airtel numbers were got with wrong or forged identities by suspected criminals.
“Cabinet directed the Minister of ICT and National Guidance to investigate Telecommunication Companies that registered Simcards with wrong Information with a view of taking strong punitive measures against them if found uncompliant with government’s standing policy of having all simcards registered before issuance with the use of a National Identity card for Nationals,” he said.
After a lot of hurdles, UCC late last year concluded sim-card registration that minister Tumwebaze said was 90% successful. One had to have a national identity card in order to acquire a SIM card.
The country’s total registered mobile subscribers stand at 23.5 million across the eight telecom firms.
Managing security was the major objective of the exercise but going by recent crime incidents where mobile phones have been used that cannot be traced, there is growing concern the registration exercise was not full-proof.
The most recent incident involving the use of untraceable mobile phones ended with the death of a Kampala-based cashier Suzan Magara whose kidnappers tried to reach the family seeking a ransom.
Uganda embarked on sim-card registration nearly five years ago but the exercise was delayed until the government was able to introduce national identity cards in 2014 for clear identification of customers.
According to government officials, the enactment of the Registration of Persons Act 2015 makes the national ID a mandatory document to use for any form of registration services, SIM card registration inclusive.
Government also directed telecoms to restrict SIM card sales in designated places – service centres and kiosks
By close of deadline on August 31, 2017, UCC and the office of the Prime Minister reported that 98% of the SIM cards had been successfully registered and were compliant. Mutabazi said then that the 2% that was not registered by end of August was insignificant going by industry operations.