Many Sierra Leoneans and others have been expressing disgust over the delay on the part of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) to issue Identity Cards (IDs) to citizens and non-citizens for the past three years running.
Such a frustration is really understandable within the context that in order to access certain facilities an individual must produce an Identification Card, otherwise he or she will be denied such unless otherwise discretion is used to reach an agreeable understanding. For example, to open a bank account an individual must present a National ID Card or a Passport and indeed it is really disgusting when such are not available.
In this country, the right to national identity is enshrined in the 1991 constitution and is a fundamental human right tied to other rights and entitlement to some services provided by Government. An Integrated National Civil Registration System, as established by law in the National Civil Registration Act of 2016, provides for the issuance of multi-purpose National e-Identity Cards that can be used by Citizens and non-Citizen residents in all areas where identity verification is required.
Some have said that there had been a lot of excuses given by the Director General of NCRA, Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi, without seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.
There is a particular school of thought which holds the view that the NCRA DG had been putting more premium on Verification of personal Details, which they think is long overdue even before the corona virus struck.
That exercise, they said, involves a lot of money and procurements, furthering that considering the fact that there are 17 NCRA offices in the 16 Administrative districts, that exercise must have been accomplished and move the process forward.
Indeed, capacity building is very much important for effective service delivery in any institution but when it is frequently done it might raise eyebrows. Based on what that particular school of thought has decried the NCRA do conduct frequent trainings highlighting that such are not feasible, creating no meaningful impacts and sometimes very costly, all said to be from the tax payers’ monies.
The United Nations guidelines on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) stipulate that Civil Registration Systems need to be organized such that the registration covers the entire country and every citizen and non-citizen resident in that country. Sierra Leone, in trying to meet the UN Guidelines, the Parliament passed an act in June 2016 to create the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA).
The mandate of NCRA, according to the 2016 Act, is to register all citizens and non-citizens resident in Sierra Leone. In addition, NCRA is to register all vital events (including Births, Deaths, Marriages, Adoptions, Nullities and Separations) on a Continuous, Permanent, Compulsory and Universal basis at the chiefdom and ward levels across the country.
As stipulated in its Act, to use the data to generate a National Identification Number (NIN) for every citizen and non-citizen resident in Sierra Leone and to issue the National Identity Card.
However, since its inception after the enactment of the June 2016 Act the NCRA has little to show in terms of the fulfilment of its mandate.
For example, one of the objectives for which the Authority was established is to develop and maintain an accurate electronic database of the population of Sierra Leone.
Lamentably, it is now nearly five years since the NCR Act was established and it is nearly three years since the current administration took charge to steer the NCRA to achieve its objectives by carrying out the stipulated functions but there has been abysmal outcomes despite the provision of funds by the Government of Sierra Leone and Development Partners.
In terms of developing and maintaining an accurate electronic database of the population of Sierra Leone, the NCRA does not have an accurate electronic database of the entire population of Sierra Leone and therefore cannot issue National Identification Numbers to every citizen and resident in Sierra Leone despite the huge amount of money pumped by donors and Government into the institution.
Ultimately, the NCRA cannot give the citizens and residents of this country the much needed National Identity Card on which majority of the population’s livelihood depends.
Critics are saying it is time for the NCRA to wake up and do the needy in order to step up and commence the issuance of ID Cards to citizens and non-citizens.
(C) The Calabash Newspaper