Digitizing Ghana’s economy is indeed a good step forward to advancing the growth and progress of the country, however registering for Ghana card, which is the national ID card and the main foundation of the digitalization process as all data is being synchronized with it, might be one hell of thing that Ghanaians have to endure.
I describe it as “hell” not because the Ghana card itself is a bad initiative. Nope! But it’s because of the frustrations the applicants go through and the commotion they face at the various Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) registration centers.
If the Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority, Professor Ken Attafuah and the authorities have not heard nor seen yet, then I plead that they lend me both their ears and eyes.
Before I proceed to outline the realities on the grounds, the question that boggles my mind is how does the Vice President of the Republic, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia encourage Ghanaians to acquire a Ghana card when they are frustrated by the NIA personnel, hence breeding apathy in the people? How is the lot of Ghanaians, if not everybody, going to have the card if they go to the registration centers only to be told to go back home for some ridiculous reasons?
Now to the facts of the issue!
According to the Vice President during his public lecture at Ashesi University weeks ago, Ghanaians currently in possession of the Ghana card are over 15 million in number.
”So far, 15.7 million people have been enrolled on the Ghana card by the NIA and most of the population will be enrolled by 2022”, the Veep disclosed.
With this data, it means a chunk of the citizenry don’t have their cards yet as Ghana’s current population exceeds 30 million. Therefore, as almost everything is being linked to the Ghana card which means very soon those not having the card may find it difficult to undertake normal activities, it is only wise to perceive that a mammoth number of the populace will be trooping to the registration centers to get registered and obtain the card.
It is again wise to note that there will be enormous pressure on the NIA personnel at the various offices. So, what do you do in order to rectify this avoidable problem of Ghanaians thronging the offices and the personnel snapping at them and returning most back to wherever they came from?
In order not to confuse any person who has taken interest in reading this and also not to prolong matters, I will try my best to give a vivid visual account of what is happening in the offices by narrating a personal encounter at the Achimota GRA office (Annex) behind the Republic Bank.
At the Achimota GRA office, two things are happening there; one is the registration for new Ghana cards and the other is the issuance of the cards to those who have already registered. I must admit that going to the Achimota GRA office is convenient for me, so I decided to go there and register for my card since, due to genuine reasons, I missed the first opportunity when the registration was open to all Ghanaians.
However, on three occasions that I have been at this registration center, I have been met with nothing but a disappointing message that I am never cut for the number of people they are willing to register each day I went there.
Now, my curiosity antenna led me to inquire from the registrar why I cannot just register in peace and have to be walked back home on three consecutive times and her excuse was that she is the only officer charged by the NIA to register new applicants at the same time issue cards to those already registered.
So, at Achimota GRA office, one person is simultaneously registering new applicants and issuing cards which baffles my mind. Because how do the authorities expect Ghanaians to hold a Ghana card when an NIA officer is sort of killing two birds with one stone?
On Thursday, November 18, 2021, which was my third time at the Achimota GRA office, the situation at the place was messier as it nearly turned into a boxing arena. Although I was there to do my card, my profession demanded that I found out why people were so stranded just like myself and the stories were amazing to hear.
Some of the new applicants had actually come to sleep at the office premises a night before the day, thus some coming around 8 pm on Wednesday, November 17, to wait and grab a better spot while others came at 1am, 2am, 3am and 4am with the latest arriving time for others being 7am and 8am; all in hope that they will register for their card.
There were two queues at the premises. One for the new applicants and the other for those whose cards were ready for grab. However, both queues remained stationary for hours that up till 12 pm on Thursday, the registrar had registered only about seven (7) new applicants and issued a handful of the cards to the people.
The annoying thing, of all this, was that as at 2pm, not even eighteen (18) new applicants had been registered, creating disorder as the people began to lose interest while others angrily accosted the registrar. A brawl also nearly broke out among the people but for the intervention of some good Samaritans who stepped in to calm down tempers, the Achimota GRA office (Ghana card registration center) would have gone viral showing gory incidents.
At the end of the day, the NIA officer could only register about twenty (20) people and sent a large number back to where they came from, giving them a flimsy assurance that she would give them a premium pass the following day. Ridiculously, from eye witnesses’ accounts, the officer could only register fifteen (15) people the entire day before the Thursday, thus on Wednesday, November 17. I can testify that that’s what goes on on daily basis at this center.
I am told this situation is similar at all the GRA offices, although the incidents differ.
How then do you blame Ghanaians for not having Ghana card if you subject them to this inhumane treatment?
Some people including nursing mothers with their babies and elderly people, some having difficulties to walk unless they are with their walking aid, among others come to stand in the scorching sun (no chairs are provided for them, so most people have to stand the entire period from morning till evening), only for them to be turned back home. And you think they will return to do the registration or you think the situation will be resolved without conscious efforts by the authorities to rectify the problem?
I’d recommend that the National Identification Authority boss increases the personnel at the various GRA offices to ease the pressures there. I also suggest that the centers should be made friendlier by providing seats for especially the aged.
I further propose that, with the district offices which I presume have already been opened since the NIA announced it’ll open the offices beginning Wednesday, November 17, the Authority increases the personnel as well because if not and it’s going to be a limited personnel as low as one NIA officer or two are in charge of both registering and sorting out the Ghana cards to issue to registrants, then we should expect the same scenario at the Achimota GRA office to recur at all the district offices.
Furthermore, the NIA should provide detailed information on their website for the citizenry to know about the locations of the district offices and any other relevant information they need to access their cards.
Also, some people recommend that the Ghana card registration forms should be made available on the NIA website so internet users can access it, fill and submit the forms; then, when it’s time for them to collect their cards, they go to the collection centers with their original documents to authenticate their forms before the cards are issued to them. However, I don’t know how feasible this is but if we say we are digitizing the economy, then I believe the Authority can take this into consideration in order to cut down on the numbers that throng the registration centers.
Lastly, there is a recommendation for the Authority to once again open registration nationwide and like the Ghana Statistical Service did with the population census, the NIA should send their personnel to homes and offices to get the new applicants registered or open centers nationwide like the 2020 voter’s registration exercise.
I bet that if nothing is done about what’s happening now, I dread the Ghana card initiative may suffer a big blow as many Ghanaians will withdraw themselves from the process. And who loses? Of course we all lose!