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SIM card case deferred as deadline draws closure

By Farooq Kasule

Added 16th May 2017 08:49 AM

On May 8, 2017, government extended SIM card verification deadline to May19, 2017, which is due on Friday this week.

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Hearing of an application in which activists want court to halt the deactivation of unverified SIM cards hit a snag on Monday. The presiding judge was absent.

High Court civil division deputy registrar Alex Ajiji deferred the hearing.
“The trial judge is away on official duties and for that reason, the case is adjourned to May, 18, 2017 for hearing,” Ajiji said.

On May 8, 2017, government extended SIM card verification deadline to May19, 2017, which is due on Friday this week. Since then thousands of people have dashed to comply with the government directive.

Speaking to New Vision shortly after court, Norman Tumuhimbise one of the petitioners said, “Although we are disappointed, we have no option but to wait for Thursday.”

Activists want court to halt the verification exercise until local councils elections are legitimized through an election.

Government suspended local council elections and diverted the funds to fight starvation. The Supreme Court ruled that the current LC structures are null and void.

The petitioners argue that mobile subscribers seek LC1 letters to acquire National Identification Number (NIN), a requirement by National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) for Simcard re-registration.

“Local council leaders all over the country are holding offices illegally. Nonetheless NIRA solicited for their recommendations as a guarantee for one to register for national identity cards which makes the whole process wrong,” Tumuhimbise argued.

The petitioners also want court to cancel SIM card re-registration, saying it was done under wrong procedure.

Tumuhimbise proposed that in case court inclines to grant his request, it should order NIRA to accept only local council three (LC3) recommendations as a valid requirement for identity card re-registration.

He contends that in 2015, NIRA was given a mandate to carry out registration of citizens under the Registration of Persons Act 2015 and it only relied on LC 1 Letters which are operating illegally.

In April, 2, 2017, Uganda communication commission (UCC) issued a directive to mobile network companies in the country to ensure that all their customers re-register their SIM card using their national identity card number (NIN) but a number of people, who have no ID cards, are likely to be affected.

He avers that the entire process is unlawful and pursued in reliance upon National Identification, which are also based on an illegality.
“Further registration of SIM cards and National IDs is unlawful and shall only result into compounded illegalities and is also an unattainable in law,” Tumuhimbise claims.

He argues that UCC's continued issuance of the directive on SIM card re-registration is in total disregard of the regulations of Interception of Communications Act, 2010 and 2011.

“The implementation of the impugned directive by UCC as opposed to the security minister is illegal and ultra vires,” the petitioner's lawyer, Eron Kizza said. He added that UCC's acts amounts to breach of the law. 

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