NIDA officers, agents start milking switch off threat

21Jan 2020
Getrude Mbago
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
NIDA officers, agents start milking switch off threat
  • ACT-Wazalendo mulls High Court petition

POLICE in Shinyanga Region are holding an assistant registration officer for the National Identification Authority (NIDA), Haroon Mushi and SIM card registration agent Victor Isack Vicent for allegedly charging people up to 30,000/- each to help them get national identification numbers (NIN)-

-to register their sim cards.

Shinyanga District Commissioner Jasinta Mboneko confirmed the incident after a visit at NIDA offices in the afternoon yesterday. She was there to witness the registration process and listen to people’s concerns over complexities in obtaining the numbers.

The DC directed the police to arrest the two suspects.

Vicent was the first to be arrested and confessed to collaborate with the NIDA official in assisting people to get NIN at a cost of 30,000/-. Later, police arrested Mushi who refuted the claims insisting to be working closely with the agent to crosscheck whether those who wanted to register their lines had already secured NIN.

Vicent confirmed to be engaged in asking for payouts from sim card owners to fast track biometric registration of their telephone line numbers.

Shinyanga Acting Regional Police Commander Joseph Paulo confirmed the arrest of two suspects, saying they will be taken to court as soon as investigations are completed.

This incident reflects anxiety by millions of mobile phone owners who had not yet registered their SIM cards biometrically as they are likely to be cut out of telecommunication services from late yesterday, at the expiry of extension for biometric registration exercise.

In an interview yesterday, the Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications Atashasta Nditiye said that the government will help those who have already applied for National Identification Number (NIN) to continue accessing phone services.

He said that the ministry will consult responsible authorities to ensure all telephone line owners who are yet to get NIN but took effort to apply, do not miss communications services.

“We recognize that there are some people who took efforts to get NIN but didn’t succeed, we are going to consider them. Those who ignored and opted not to apply for national identification numbers won’t be able to access communications services with their mobile phones,” he said.

He asserted that the National Identification Authority (NIDA), the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and mobile phone companies will collaboratively work to ensure those already registered by NIDA continue to enjoy communication services as those who have registered biometrically.

“We will consider those already in NIDA database during the switching off exercise because they are only waiting to be provided with NIN. Telephone line owners who have not even applied for NIN will be affected by the exercise”, said the Deputy Minister.

The telephone line switch-off has prompted many people to call on the need for the government to give the matter a second look, as the move will affect large number of people and even put at risk scores of economic activities.

The opposition ACT Wazalendo issued an appeal to the government to suspend plans to switch off sim cards that have not been biometrically registered until NIDA completes the provision of NIN to all eligible individuals.

In a statement, the party said it would file a petition at the High Court to challenge the government decision on grounds that Tanzanians should not be punished simply for not having obtained NIN.

“Switching off of telephone lines should be directed at those who have NIN but have not registered their numbers. The government should also capacitate NIDA offices and ensure that it has all the resources to reach and register a good number of people on time,” the party emphasized.

Switching off telephone lines w0uld negatively impact the economy as most people are now conducting routine financial transactions via mobile phones, the statement noted.

 TCRA affirms that a total of 756.3 million mobile cash transactions to the tune of 16trn/- were recorded in the last quarter of 2019 (September-December).

 ACT Wazalendo said any switch off will affect mobile phone agents as well as those whose businesses can only be accessed through mobile phone Apps.

In separate interviews among a large crowd gathered at NIDA offices in Miembeni-Unguja for last minute efforts to save their lines from being switched off, expressed their fear of lacking communications   in the coming days, calling on the government to see what it can do to help them.

“I have been coming here several times and today I left my daily duties just to get this important card or number but I haven’t got anything,” said Mbaraka Mohamed Said, a Jang’ombe resident.

In his response, acting NIDA Director General Hassan Haji Hassan said that over 700,000 people in the Isles had been registered and issued with national ID cards.

 He however admitted that the exercise has been facing some challenges, including network problems thwarting efforts to issue more cards to people.

In Bariadi, Simiyu Region many people were unable to get their IDs from NIDA due to lack of networks, and many were saying for the past three days network speeds have been noticeably slow.

This feeling was upheld by Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation (TTCL) regional manager Bimbona Kyamani, who said that the problem has affected all networks, starting from the large number of people wanting to register their simcards.

Residents Mwanhangala village, Lyabusalu ward in Shinyanga District complained over the long distances to reach NIDA offices, more than 70 kms away in Shinyanga municipality. This has contributed to many of them failing to register their simcards biometrically.