UCC halts use of refugee IDs to register SIM cards

Tuesday October 8 2019

Exposed. Airtel and MTN service centres at

Exposed. Airtel and MTN service centres at Shoprite shopping mall where rogue agents target clients who need new SIM cards. Inset is yesterday’s Daily Monitor copy that carried the story. PHOTO BY DAVID LUBOWA 


Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has suspended registration of all SIM cards using refugee identity cards and attestation letters from Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
The suspension was announced by UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi in a press statement yesterday following Daily Monitor’s story that exposed a scam where unscrupulous people in town were registering mobile telecom SIM cards using forged refugee identity cards.
“Reference is made to the investigative findings as reported in the Daily Monitor newspaper dated October 7, 2019, under the article ‘Scam rocks Sim card registration,” Mr Mutabazi states.
“The commission has as a result of this directed all telecom operators to suspend the registration of all SIM cards with the use of refugee cards and attestation letters from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) effective October 7, 2019.”
Mr Mutabazi also stated that UCC is in the process of formulating stringent procedures with the OPM on the validation of the refugee cards and attestation letters to check further SIM registration fraud.
“Until formally communicated by the commission, no further registration will be permitted with the above mentioned documents. Any telecom operator identified to carry out registration from the date of this notice may be penalised accordingly,” Mr Mutabazi warned.
Kampala Metropolitan police spokesman Patrick Onyango told this newspaper by telephone that they were still ‘analysing the card registration processes’ before they could start investigations.
He was noncommittal on when they would start the investigations into the ongoing SIM card registration fraud.
“Call me in the middle of the week to get updates,” he said.
Our efforts to speak to Mr Gerald Mehnya, the commissioner for refugees in the OPM, were futile as he did not reply to our repeated calls nor our text messages.
Following an undercover investigation, Daily Monitor yesterday exposed the scam with some telecom agents forging refugee cards to enable non-refugees acquire new SIM cards without the requirement of a valid National Identity Card from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).
In 2018, UCC issued new SIM card validation guidelines to all telecommunication companies to ensure registered telephone numbers match the subscriber’s valid National Identification Number (NIN) on the national Identity Card.
According to the UCC rules, a Ugandan can only acquire a new SIM upon presentation of a valid National ID from NIRA.
A foreigner can only acquire a SIM card upon presentation of a valid passport while a refugee needs a refugee identity card or any other authorisation letter from OPM.
The purpose was to fight crime by making criminals traceable on their registered SIM cards after commission of offences using their phone lines.

However, our investigations found out that with Shs50,000, one can quickly and easily get a functional SIM card duly registered with mobile money services using a forged refugee identity card at Shoprite Mall on Entebbe Road.
The scam is nurtured at Shoprite and completed at a secret mobile money shop near Cooper Complex in Kampala.
The scam, our investigations show, is so easy to execute that you can get a registered SIM card within 30 minutes upon payment to agents and their brokers
During our investigations, this reporter was able to acquire new MTN and Airtel SIM cards (0782835300 and 0708957854) under a pseudo name of Henry Mubunga using a refugee identity card which was forged for him by the registration agents.
The identity card, acquired last Thursday, bears registration number 653-49173329 with DR Congo as the country of origin.
However, the registration agent backdated the date of issue of the identity card to February 18, 2018.
Particulars on the two SIM cards do not show the NIN because this reporter was registered as a refugee. Refugees do not have a NIN.
This means the system of the two telecom companies, which issued the SIM cards also entered the forged details of the subscriber, who was registered as a Congolese, whereas he is Ugandan.
We also established that people can acquire as many SIM cards as one wishes, meaning they cannot be traced in the national data base in case of criminal investigation.
In February 2018, businesswoman Susan Magara was kidnapped and murdered by assailants who were using SIM cards, that could not be traced in the NIRA data base, to communicate and demand a ransom from the victim’s parents.
Police said the kidnappers were using different SIM cards, whose owners and particulars could not be traced in the national data bank.
Subsequently, UCC issued new SIM card validation guidelines to all telecommunication companies to ensure registered numbers match the subscriber’s valid NIN on the National Identity Card.
Both police and UCC admitted the ongoing scam in SIM card registration was compromising national security.