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National Identification?!!!

Picture source:  http://www.dailyguideghana.com

Upon visiting the home page for the National Identification authority (NIA) of Ghana, you cannot miss the words, “Providing future solutions now”.    From what I have seen, the NIA wishes to provide a National Database that will collect information on Ghanaian citizens as well as foreign nationals with legal residency within the country.  Providing future solutions now?  Are we ready for the NIA to do this? Do we really want to bring the future into the present?  When we can’t handle what we have now, should we really rush for this?

Now I can see the benefits of having a National ID for all citizens.  This should, if done properly enable us to secure accurate population data which would in turn enable us boost comprehensive national planning.  Supposedly, this card will even allow us to attend the hospital.  Which makes me question what will happen to the National health Insurance (NHIS) cards.  Are our hospitals and schools equipped to the level where they can utilise such a database?  Should they be allowed to utilise the database?  Should we be comfortable with our information being collected as such?  And why was this scheme set up without asking the Ghanaian population?

I found the following when I visited the site http://www.niaghana.gov.gh/home.html and thought them to be of interest

Q.            If I lose my ID Card or if it is stolen, will a new card be issued as replacement?

A.   Virtually all countries that run National Identification Systems report that loss or damage of ID Cards causes a myriad of problems. In several cases, up to five percent of cards are lost, stolen or damaged each year. The individual is then denied benefits from public services and major everyday business transactions. In the broadest sense his/her identity is lost.  The replacement of a high security and high integrity card involves significant administrative and technical costs.  It is therefore advisable for holders to protect and secure their cards.
However, if the card is stolen or lost it is important to report promptly to the National Identification Authority to enable it issue a replacement.
                      
Personalization and issuance of the new card will be the same as in the case of the original card.  All information on the replacement card will be stored in a separate database for reference purposes.

So we are being encouraged to get these cards….and should we lose them, or be robbed, have to suffer for crimes WE did not commit?  And when we were not asked if we would want a service such as this?!!!  How long will I be forced to go without my benefits if my card should be stolen or damaged?

Q.        Will the Identification System not increase police power?

A.        In some countries, especially in non-democratic countries, there have been instances where there were claims of police abuse of such identification systems. Indeed, under a democratic dispensation, it is accepted that although police may have powers, it does not follow that they should exercise them by infringing on  fundamental rights of the citizen. The powers of the police are limited by the constitution of Ghana and several other statues.

So they are informing us of the possibility of the police and other agencies to abuse the system and as such, oppress the people.  Is our nation prepared for this?  Have we managed our security forces to the point where we can be safe with them having our info?  Just a few weeks ago, six policemen were sentenced 20 years each for robbing a business man among other crimes.  Quite often we find them trying to find any means necessary of collecting money from us.  If we cannot trust our police now, can we trust them with such vital information?  I personally think that this scheme could be far more intrusive than we expect.

Q.        Will registration be voluntary or mandatory?

A.        Registration will be mandatory. This will enable the creation of a comprehensive national database and civil registry for national development purposes. There will be a law requiring all citizens of Ghana and legally resident foreigners to present themselves for enrollment.

Oh so I am forced to sign up for this or face discrimination?  Already I see massive discrimination with the registration process.  In order to register for the NIS, you are to show up at the centre with your birth certificate, drivers licence, baptismal card, voters ID,  etc…. to verify that you are who you say you are.  Remember that we live in a country where about 50% of births are not registered.  Yaa delivers her child in her hut or kiosk and does the out-dooring a week later for the community to see.  That’s all she cares about.  Who are you with your booklong to tell her to go pay for registering her child?

According to the Ghana births and deaths website, http://www.bdrghana.gov.gh/achievements.php  in 2000, about 31% of births were registered.  About 48% of child births were registered in 2006.   I do not think that in 2009, we’ve miraculously attained the level of 100% of births being registered with the Births and Deaths registry.  As such, what are Kwasi and Ama from the village going to do when it comes their turn to register?  Why, fake documents of course.  Not knowing if they were ever registered at the Births and Deaths or not, and not having passports or drivers licenses….no health insurance, never having had the opportunity to vote and being traditionalists or atheists without baptismal cards, what happens to these people?

I am made aware of the fact that birth certificates are being issued without confirmation from the registry.  I am also made aware through very reliable sources that Ama, who claims to have no ID, can slip about GH¢2 to the registration officials and get the registration done.  This tells me that even the officials conducting the exercise have not been well educated.  If they realised the implications of putting wrong data on the database, I doubt paying them GH¢100 would make them register people with no proof of identity.  According to the daily guide, “persons who fail to possess any of the above mentioned documents could also visit any centre with relatives to identify them under oath”  Ah well, seeing as they’re doing it without the necessary relatives to swear the oaths, I think this has failed.

Bottom line for me is, this exercise wasn’t well thought out and people have not been educated enough for it to be successful.  I am wondering why the government decided for us.  Are we truly a democratic nation?  Which members of our democratic society were chosen to tell us this was good for us? I can’t say that I am happy with this and wonder if I should even bother joining the long queues to sign up in my area.   

Is Ghana learning to run too soon after crawling?  Have we missed that oh so important step of standing up straight and walking?  I rather think that we should improve upon the other identification means before taking on something as HUGE as a national ID scheme.

Oh well, what do I know? I will be first to admit that I am no politician, economist or statistician.  So my views may be inaccurate and even possibly myopic.  Holla back if you agree or disagree with me, spill what’s on your mind.  Best way to learn fast is to tap peoples’ brains and I can’t wait to see what you think of this.  Oh and sorry for the long rant….I’ll try to keep it simple next time.

~Daixy~

Comments

comments

5 Comments

  1. You are not mad at all, these are very real concerns. Why is this the first time I read something this interesting (and critical) about NIA?

    December 20, 2009
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  2. Also, I would like to invite you to our aggregator ghanablogging.com and our monthly meetups in ACcra. Drop me a line kajsahallberg at gmail.com

    December 20, 2009
    |Reply
  3. @ Kajsa, I think you should wait till you meet me before deciding if I’m nutts or not lol. I honestly don’t know which bee got in my bonnet but yeah, I decided to take a good look at the NIA. Most people I have spoken to have simply accepted it and haven’t even bothered to question it. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that this country is democratic only on paper. We’ve got a long way to go before we truly grasp the meaning of “democracy”.

    Bless you for your kind words. I’m glad someone thinks I’ve touched on something important.

    About the other, sure thing. I was working up the courage to send a request lol. Thanks for the push 🙂

    December 21, 2009
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  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I agree and disagree with your concept of democracy. I could be wrong, but when the US instituted its Social Security numbers as a means of National Identification, the general public was not asked their opinion. Government decided it would be best and then intstituted it. If countries were “TRULY” democratic nothing would get done. However I agree that Ghana isn’t ready for this. I believe that the percentages of people with the card will roughly parrallel the percentages of recorded births. A large percentage of the population (with and without proper birth registry) will not get the cards due to various logistical reasons. Meaning we will still have grossly inaccurate population statistics. GG

    January 7, 2010
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  5. @ GG…thanks for your comment. I see what you mean about countries not being truly democratic. I still insist thatdemocracy in our country is a sham though.

    I’m still trying to find a place where I can get my registration done and the time to leave work for that destination. Not searching furiously though….just making casual inquiries and bein told around Achimota but not where in Achimota. The numbers won’t be accurate for quite a nmber of years, I’m afraid, if ever.

    You are so RIGHT about the pecentages of card holders matching the percentage of recoded births. Now they’re gonna have to figure out how to get the people wthout ID to even come in I wish us luck lol

    January 27, 2010
    |Reply

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