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SIM Card Saga: “You’re Completely Off-Tangent,” Gbevlo Lartey Tells Legal Expert   
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Audio Attachment:Listen to Lawyer Ace Ankomah and National Security Coordinator, Lt. Col. Gbevlo Lartey (rtd) argue rather forcefully for and against the proposed SIM Card registration vis-à-vis the citizens’ right to privacy of correspondence and communication.

The storm of controversy generated by the proposed Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card registration vis-à-vis the citizens’ right to privacy of correspondence and communication, hit a crescendo on the airwaves today, Tuesday, January 26th, when two legal luminaries, one a former Military Officer and the other a practising lawyer, argued rather forcefully for and against the proposal.

Whiles Accra-based lawyer, Ace Anan Ankomah, believes “there are potential legal minefields that appear to be completely lost on the proponents of the exercise, “the National Security Co-ordinator, Lt. Col. Gbevlo Lartey contends that Ace Ankomah “is completely off-tangent.”

Mr Ankomah, who wrote an open letter to the Ministers of Finance and Communication in December, last year, but without any formal response, told Kwami-Sefa Kayi in an interview on Peace FM’s “Kokrokoo” that he has “no personal beef” with the proposed idea.

“I do not have a gripe against the proposed registration of the details of SIM Card holders in Ghana. Infact, I support the idea. However, what I have sought to do is to raise questions about who is leading the exercise, the use to which the information gathered would be put, amongst other”, he said.

The legal expert told Peace FM that he was rather concerned by overt moves by “National Security” for a mandatory registration of the details of all mobile phone subscribers in Ghana, with deadlines and threats of disconnection of unregistered customers.

“My concerns greatly increased when the 2010 Budget Statement, captured in paragraphs 621,628 672 and 824, plans by government to “acquire telecommunications monitoring equipment,” he added.

Ace Ankomah posited that the attempt to compel existing owners to register with the threat of disconnection is fraught with legal problems. According to him, in some countries where the equipment is in used, some governments have turned to “phone cloning.”
Calling for the passage of a new law, the legal expert said, “mobile phone operators cannot under the threat of disconnection, compel users to comply with directives to provide personal details.”

“If the providers do this, they will be inviting themselves the biggest class action litigation the country has ever seen,” he added.

"Gbevlo's Reaction"

However, National Security Coordinator, Lt. Col. Gbevlo Lartey (rtd) sharply disagrees.

He avers that inasmuch as going in for a service means you have entered into a contract with the provider, the call for a new law or any amendment of existing law(s) is needless.

“Kwami, how can you have a contract with someone you don’t know…what we’re saying is that if a telecom operator cannot or does not have the details of its customer, then its capacity to provide national security with information when the need arises falls short…if someone is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded via a phone call, the telecom operator should have the capacity to give details of the SIM owner when the security agencies orders for it. But right now, they don’t have that capacity. End of story…the telephone has become a dangerous weapon,” he said.

At this point, the intellectual discourse then degenerated into a back and forth debate with both sides unwilling to concede to the other.

For now, it remains to be seen if National Security through the National Communications Authority will have its way, or whether the proponents for the requisite legislation will hold sway.
Source: Kwadwo Asante/Peacefmonline.com/Ghana

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