KAMPALA – Lawmakers on Wednesday, July 24 rejected a statement issued by Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Obiga Kania, on delays by the National Identification Authority (NIRA) to issue national identification cards, saying it fell short of remedying the solution at hand.
In his statement, Obiga argued that there is a serious backlog which affects the turnaround time since the system queues all the applications and uses a first come first serve basis, noting that delays are caused by the manual transmission of data from the district offices to headquarters.
The Minister argued that NIRA has faced unprecedented demand for replacement of lost cards far more than it had initially anticipated and since the inception of the replacement module, 124,381 applications for replacement of lost cards have been received at the central server and are at different levels of processing.
Obiga said, “However, the key challenge and one of the issues causing the most delays is that some persons got their NIDs during the mass issuance exercise in 2015 without completing the process as required on the system like appending their thumbprint to confirm issuance. When such persons approach NIRA offices to process a replacement or change of particulars, their applications are automatically withheld by the system since their data is still active at the respective districts hence the need for them to first go back to the respective centre of registration and complete the issuance process of the first NID before their application for a replacement can be processed.”
Responding to cases of bribery and mistreatment by NIRA officials, Obiga said that investigations found out that the people involved are not staff of NIRA but persons purporting to be staff of NIRA and some are people who have worked with the Authority during the mass enrollment exercise and are familiar with the requirements.
He also blamed Ugandans missing IDs for failure to leave behind their phone numbers for contact after completion of their IDs noting, “Many of these applicants at the time did not provide telephone contacts and some who did, these contacts have since changed and they cannot be reached. The Authority is committed to providing professional and customer-centric services. Client facing staff both at headquarters and the districts has been trained in Customer Care Skills to improve their skills in handling customers.”
However, his statement was rubbished by legislators like Assuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) and Kigozi Ssempala (Makindye Sabagabo) accusing security forces of confiscating National IDs from suspected and do not return them to owners.
Basalirwa said, “Ugandans are made to pay mistakes made by NIRA. NIRA issues ID that has mistakes and NIRA requires them to pay for the mistake they made. You can’t ask for statutory declaration when the mistake was yours. Certain security agencies are confiscating national IDs. I don’t know if the government has taken decision to confiscate national IDs from people who have committed crime or suspected to commit crimes.”
Kenneth Esiangu (Soroti County) called for the decentralization of replacement of IDs saying many people upcountry have faced immense challenges attempting to replace their lost IDs.
“This is supposed to be national program and ideally, accessibility should have made easier especially people from up country. Getting physical national ID is the most challenging thing and what makes it worse is issue of replacement. At least regionalize replacement of IDs,” he said.
Lydia Chekwel (Kween Woman) said that the business of replacing IDs has been a nightmare and she has been forced to housed many and facilitated paying the Shs50,000 for replacement of IDs for her voters.
Andrew Aja (Kabale Municipality) questioned Government’s rationale to include expiry dates on the IDs, “I wonder how a citizen expires. This massive registration, that means a lot of money will be sunk at the same time. How does the ID rhyming with other documents like passports such that we stop hide and seek game. There should be something common with other documents. You should come and explain to me about the expiry date.”