How UCC is conniving with NIRA to milk millions from Ugandans in fake sim swap deal

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By Christopher Tusiime/ Cyclone Times Correspondent

Several Ugandans seeking to replace sim cards are still in shock after discovering that verifying their National Identification Numbers (NIN) with National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) won’t lead to sim card replacement.

During a one week undercover reporting, this reporter came across forms that were filled yesterday and had over 300 Ugandans who had already paid between Shs 5,000 and Shs 4,000 to replace their lost sim cards.

The payments were made following a press release by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) who on March 27, announced that sim cards may be replaced if certain requirements, including confirmation of NIN by NIRA, have been met.

A confirmation letter by one of those who followed Mutabazi’s communication, only to be told that telecom companies had again been stopped from swapping sim cards
A confirmation letter by one of those who followed Mutabazi’s communication, only to be told that telecom companies had again been stopped from swapping sim cards

Consequently, those who had lost their lines flooded NIRA offices in Kololo, Kampala, to verify their national IDs that were issued by the same body about three years back.

On inquiry, people we found in  Kololo said that each person was made to buy a copy of a form where the complaint would be written at Shs 500. Those who had lost two lines would pay Shs 1,000.

After filling the forms, NIRA employees told them to pay more Shs1,000 for each form in the only available Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) branch.

A letter from police by one of the complainants. it was one of the requirements for swapping sim cards
A letter from police by one of the complainants. it was one of the requirements for swapping sim cards

We later discovered that whether one was to replace a single sim card or two, DTB would still charge Shs 2,200 for each form as bank charges.

As the process was still moving on, some people seeking to replace their lines became suspicious, while others were bitter.

“How come we are coming here everyday and not getting the confirmation letters? I’m personally from Tororo and I registered last week but I have been coming here and not getting my letter. Which type of a country is this?” wondered Rodger Okello.

Explaining the delay, one of the NIRA officials identified as Winnie said they are understaffed.

“We are very few and yet people seeking our services here are many. We have to work on those looking for passports, those looking for birth and death certificates and you people of sim cards,” she said.

What baffled many was the fact that when UCC’s Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi was issuing the new guidelines, he didn’t inform Ugandans about the likely sur charges.

A press release by UCCcalling upon people to go to NIRA and get the confirmation letters
A press release by UCCcalling upon people to go to NIRA and get the confirmation letters

Also, it should be remembered that, currently, NIRA has only one office in the country. This means that all those who have issues with their sim cards, country wide, have to travel to Kampala.

But everything took a new twist after a whistle blower Raymond Twinamatsiko yesterday, at NIRA offices, told hundreds of those seeking to swap their lines that UCC has issued another directive banning the process until a certain machine is imported.

“Actually I called MTN  customer care before coming here and they told me UCC stopped sim swapping. I didn’t believe the woman until I went to Shoprite in Lugogo [at one of the MTN service centres] and they told me the same thing. So all we are doing here is wastage of time and money,” said Twinamatsiko, one of  those who wanted to replace a sim card.

Also telecom companies have already distanced  themselves from the process.

It’s sister company MTN Uganda added that they were neither aware of the day nor the time when the bio-metric card readers would be brought into the country.

According to NIRA, their mandate only stops at providing the information that is needed by an individual.

We tried getting a comment from UCC but they had not yet replied by the time of compiling this story.

Earlier last month, President Museveni, following the kidnap and murder of Susan Magara – a daughter to a city businessman – banned sim card swapping and selling.

He argued that criminals were using the loopholes in the country’s communication system to commit crimes.

But even after yesterday’s discovery, NIRA has gone ahead to issue confirmation letters that are not going to help rescind UCC’s ban.

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