The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration Regulation, 2011 (Legislative Instrument 2006) which was presented to Parliament on November 30, 2011 comes into force, February 2, 2012 after the House had adopted the report of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee on the instrument Wednesday.

By the coming into force of the instrument, a framework has been provided to give legal backing to the SIM registration exercise and no mobile phone operator will be able to issue a SIM card to any customer without registration, while people who use unregistered SIM cards will have their SIMs deactivated.

However, the LI provides a satisfactory transitional arrangement to give unregistered subscribers a window of opportunity to register their SIMs within a 30-day grace period beginning from Friday.

The Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament, Mr Kwame Osei-Prempeh, moved the motion for the adoption of the committee’s report and he was seconded by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tain, Mr Ahmed Ibrahim.

Presenting the report of the committee, Mr Osei-Prempeh observed that mobile phones had become part and parcel of the everyday life of people across the world, with Ghana being no exception.

“The emergence of the communication tool has created increased opportunities and innovations in the field of communications and commerce, thereby playing a significant role in the socio-economic development of the country,” he said.

He said as a result of the increased competition in the telecommunications industry, the country had reached a stage where SIM cards and other aspects of technology had become almost free, making it easier for people to acquire SIM cards and also dispose of them.

Mr Osei-Prempeh said despite those significant developments, some unscrupulous people had taken advantage of modern technology to commit crimes and carry out other anti-social acts.

He said statistics indicated that a number of people were recently arrested and convicted of SIM boxing and other SIM-related crimes through the use of unregistered SIMs, adding that it was on record that one person was arrested with 3,600 SIM cards engaging in illegal telecommunication operations in the country.

He said those illegal activities usually resulted in huge loss of revenue to the state and service providers and caused deterioration in the quality of service.

“It has, therefore, become imperative to register all SIMs to make subscribers more responsible for the use of the facility,” he said, adding, “This will also enable the National Communications Authority (NCA) to maintain a proper database on subscribers for planning and other purposes.”

In the report, the committee observed that the coming into force of the instrument would augment the efforts of the law enforcement agencies in combating crime in the country.

“The records of subscribers will provide the relevant information for effective crime combat to protect life and property and thus create the enabling environment for the socio-economic development of the country,” it said.

The committee also noted that adequate provisions to safeguard the information on registered subscribers had been outlined in the instrument, adding that information on a subscriber could only be disclosed to a third party upon prior written consent to that subscriber or where the said information was requested by law or by a court order, in line with relevant provisions of the laws of the country.

Contributing to the debate before the report was adopted, the Minister of Communications, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the introduction of SIM registration would facilitate the implementation of mobile number portability in the country.

He stated that from the introduction of mobile number portability in July 2011 to date, over 150,000 people had taken advantage to port their numbers to seek for better services from other mobile service operators.

Mr Iddrisu said the LI was to give effect to provisions in the Electronic Communications Act and the NCA Deregulatory Act which required that service providers keep a subscriber database which was needed to support the enforcement of the law.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the minister said the NCA would use the 30-day grace period to intensify its education to enable people who had not registered their SIM cards to do so.