NIA Bill Passed Under Certificate Of Urgency

Prof Ken Attafuah

The National Identity Register (Amendment) Bill, 2017, was yesterday passed by parliament under a ‘certificate of urgency’ to enable the National Identification Authority (NIA) to start the registration of all Ghanaians and foreign nationals by the end of this month, in accordance with its ‘time table.’

Following the passage of the Amendment to the National Identity Register, the Legislative Instrument (L.I.) is expected to be laid in parliament in the course of next week to allow for 21 sitting days for the LI to mature to effectively bring the new law into existence.

It means therefore, that real registration could start by the third week of December.

Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the house were unanimous in agreeing to the position of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of parliament, which looked at the nitty-gritty of the bill that this particular bill needed to be passed under a   ‘certificate of urgency.’

National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Banda, who is the deputy minority chief whip, Ahmed Ibrahim and the MP for Ellembele, Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, said it was important to register all Ghanaians for proper planning and development purposes.

They said it is important to have such database and also to distinguish between Ghanaians and non Ghanaians in the country.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for La Dadekotopon and deputy Minister of Communications, Vincent Sowah Odotei, said that in this era of digitization, the biometric information of all registered Ghanaians are crucial for development purposes.

The committee chairman, Ben Abdallah Banda, presenting the committee’s report, said there is the urgent need to effect the necessary changes in the law to enable the authority to commence the impending nationwide registration exercise.

He said the recognition of the significance of the project to the development agenda of the country convinced the committee that amending the bill was of urgent nature and should therefore be passed under certificate of urgency.

“The new information would include applicants’ birth certificate numbers, street names, electronic mails, telephone numbers and the digital address codes,” he said, adding that other information would include passport numbers and their dates of issue, social security numbers, Tax Identification Number (TIN) and their dates of issue, drivers’ licence numbers and their dates of issue, among other personal details.

The chairman further said that the bill seeks to do away with the use of voters’ identity cards, drivers’ licence and baptismal certificates as proof of citizenship as directed by the Supreme Court in the case of Abu Ramadan v Attorney-General.

He said in the previous law, registration was to cover Ghanaians of six years and above, but in the new law, all Ghanaians – whether one day old or one month old – would be registered.

There were nine proposed amendments to the old bill. The proposed amendments were to amend some aspects of the National Identification Authority Act, 2006 to bring the law in tune with modern trends and also to ensure the accuracy and integrity of Ghana’s national identification system.

The registration, if given effect by the new LI, will start in the Greater Accra Region and then to the Central Region, followed by Western, Brong-Ahafo and the Ashanti Regions, according to Prof Ken Attafuah, Executive Secretary of the NIA.

By Thomas Fosu Jnr