Hours to the May 19 deadline for registration and verification of sim cards, Uganda’s Parliament has passed a motion to extend the deadline by a period not more than a year.
The motion to extend the deadline was moved by leader of opposition in Parliament Winnie Kiiza and supported by other MPs.
In her submission, Hon Kiiza said: the extension would be done concurrently with the registration of learners which is set to start soon. She added: Ugandans still need time to explain to their grandmothers and grandfathers in the villagers of what is going on.
The motion was supported by Hon Rosemary Nankabirwa -Government Chief Whip. ‘‘Let us pass this motion, and let government come up with the date for ending it.’’ She said.
Hon Niwagaba revealed that there are so many Ugandans who registered for National ID, but for reasons beyond their control, they did not get them back.
Hon Oboth told parliament that his wife has been trying to register for the past few weeks, but has not succeeded.
Speaker Kadaga noted that Government is not aware that people don’t have their ID cards.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said that Parliament was never consulted on the verification and registration exercise and deadlines.
This comes after court had quashed an application by civil society activists over the entire process, including deadlines.
On April 18, Norman Tumuhimbise and Rights Trumpet Ltd dragged UCC to the civil division of the High Court challenging the ongoing sim card subscriber verification process.
Through Niwagaba and Mwebesa Advocates, the petitioners argued that it was unfair and unconstitutional for UCC to restrict citizens to using only national IDs for registration yet there are other official documents like passports which foreign nationals were allowed to use for the exercise.
In their main suit, the petitioners want court to set aside and declare as invalid UCC’s decision.
On April 12, UCC issued a seven-day ultimatum within which all subscribers of mobile telecom services to update their SIM card details using only their national identification card.
Edwin Karugire, the counsel for UCC asked court to dismiss the application with costs since it had been overtaken by events.
Eron Niwagaba, the lawyer for the petitioners agreed that the application seeking injunction had been over taken by events and asked court to hear the main application that seeks to determine the legality of the process.
Niwagaba argued that the applicants are not to blame since their application was a public interest matter and that circumstances that led the application be over taken by events were not caused by the applicants themselves.
But Justice Musota today ruled that the interim application in which the petitioners were seeking to temporarily block UCC from continuing with the process had been overtaken by events. He therefore dismissed it with costs.
The costs however, are to be awarded after the main application is determined. Each party has been given a week to make written submissions. The applicants have been given May 25th and UCC given 1st June to respond and make rejoinders by June after which the court will set the dates for hearing the application.
Following a meeting with various telecom companies last month, UCC warned that all SIM cards whose details are not updated and verified by service providers before mid-night tomorrow May 19 would be deactivated.
Activist Norman Tumuhimbise, one of the petitioners, has told this publication that they oppose the behavior and the manner in which their case was handled by the presiding judge. He noted that they are referring the matter to the Principal Judge for redress.
Abdu Salam Waiswa, the head of legal department at UCC welcomed the ruling saying the one-month given to people as an extension was enough for every Ugandan to secure a national identity card.
Waiswa appealed to Ugandans to stop hiding behind laws to dodge registration. He noted that any vigilant Ugandan should have acquired their National Identity Cards two years ago.
According to UCC, as of Monday May 15, the preliminary records received from Telecom operators indicated that about 18.2 million Sim-cards had been validated out of about 22.8 million Sim-cards.
Waiswa insists that Ugandans have had enough time to register and that there should be no more excuses.
Also, some mobile phone users had reported that their sim cards were switched off hours before the deadline.
It remains to be seen if regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) will respect Parliament’s move.