Ghana’s constitution clearly stipulates who a citizen is. It is an objective standard not a subjective decision based on any individual’s discretion. Any attempt to grant an identification card, which confers citizenship on any individual must, therefore, be based on tried and tested controls to ensure proper verification and validation procedures to significantly minimize the risk of inadvertently or fraudulently granting citizenship to the wrong person. It is, therefore, inconceivable that anyone can issue a valid identification card on an instant basis. The NIA’s purported decision to issue Identification Cards on an instant basis thus conferring citizenship to recipients is fundamentally flawed, professionally ill-advised, dangerous and irresponsible. This therefore must be stopped in the national interest.
The NIA decision to issue National Identification card instantly is based on flawed conceptual approach and flawed conceptual processes and lack of understanding of such a vital and critical exercise. It is highly impossible to issue a card without adequate verification and validation procedures, which ensure that fraudulent applications are excluded and inadvertent and irregular applications are rejected. Anyone making an assertion that they can issue a National Identification card to a citizen of Ghana in a country without technologically sophisticated systems displays an illusion of knowledge or complete ignorance of what is at stake.
The most important primary document granting citizenship to Ghanaians is the birth certificate. The office of Birth and Death registry is not organized to provide an assurance that fraudulent certificate cannot be issued. In addition, there is a lack of database systems originating from the Birth and Death registries linked to the NIA to enable instantaneous verification and validation of these documents. This risk therefore provides an enormous opportunity for fraudulent application and the likelihood that the dead will “resurrect” and apply for ID cards and thereby invalidating the whole basis of this exercise.
In the absence of a primary document such as the birth certificate, several secondary documents will be required to assist in determining the citizenship of a person. With respect to these primary and secondary documents, their authenticity must be determined through the original issuer’s database and not by mere sight. After determining the authenticity of these documents, it will be necessary to determine that the presenter is the rightful owner of the documents. The absence of a picture on the certificate or any other document makes validation and verification even more difficult. It is, for this reason therefore, that secondary records and further processes including linking to Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and University records to enable validation on proper basis are very necessary. Herein lies the complexity, difficulty and flawed approach of who qualifies as a citizen by sight by NIA officials.
In the absence of primary and secondary documents, NIA intends to obtain oral representations of family members who have already been granted citizenship in order to confer citizenship on applicants who lack these documents. This is the most frightening, worrisome and most ignorant procedure to confer citizenship to others by oral presentation.
In an era where corruption has eaten into the social fabric, where lies are rampant, where poverty has reached unprecedented levels, where unemployment is rife and where the propensity to do anything to get along and get going is so high, the NIA is opening the floodgates of West African country citizens i.e. Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Niger, Chad, Guinea and Mali, to rush in and use fraudulent means to obtain easy citizenship. The era of National Identity cards contractors has arrived and it is instructive to note that once a foreign national receives a card, it is possible for all his friends and family and generations to come, to obtain Ghanaian citizenship status as well. Herein lies the dangers and the flaw in the NIA procedures.
Due to NIA’s inability to introduce proper verification and validation controls and procedures it has resorted to unsophisticated methods as a replacement to proper verification and validation controls. These methods include threats and intimidations to anyone attempting to illegally assist or fraudulently obtain a National ID card.
The said threat and intimidation will have minimal effect and impact on the desire of those to obtain fraudulent cards. There is an ignorant believe by the NIA that the presence of policemen or security official is enough to deter criminals. If that were to be true, there will be few criminals in Ghana or elsewhere. Indeed, the mere existence of threats can embolden criminals since they may perceive the threats and intimidation as the existence of weaknesses in the system.
Further, the NIA rollout starts with known government and quasi government institutions as well as similar organizations which naturally purport to employ only Ghanaians. Thus, it circumvents the necessary proper verification and validation procedures to ensure only Ghanaians are granted cards and non-Ghanaians are excluded. Herein lies again the NIA’s flawed conceptual approach. Even under this truncated procedure, the NIA does not link its low-level validation and verification to any organization’s database systems and records. The NIA will be relying on the process of applicants at an institution’s premise as well as a document of employment of that organization reviewed by sight at the discretion of an NIA employee conferring instantaneous citizenship to the applicant. Herein lies the subjectivity of the process and the opportunity for fraud and irregularities. One needs not underestimate the inherent risk under this truncated and unsophisticated approach.
An obvious weakness in this application process is the NIA asking applicants to complete an application form which is later scanned into a database system. The process fails to take advantage of state of the art technology which will allow users to use an app on their phones and computers to complete the data requests and seamlessly make them available by comer separated values(csv) files to enable statistical data for decision-making purposes.
It is the writer’s professional opinion that cards issued instantaneously are valueless. They are a waste. The writer believes that a professionally conceptually approach supported by a well-thought out implementation and execution plan with proper controls and verification and validation procedures can lead to the issue of ID cards for applicants between one to six months with limited risks.
It is instructive to know that a program based on wrong conceptual approach is prone to create havoc and confer citizenship to wrong persons. It will invariably assist in destroying our democratic system. Also, this flawed introduction of NIA cards is so prone to abuse and misuse that a fraudulent government can use this to undermine the electoral process and destroy any democratic system that Ghana intends to have by creating fraudulent citizens for election purposes.
Furthermore, it is sad and most regrettable that a multi-million dollar project, a project of this magnitude and a project of such fundamental importance for our national development and security, could not be conceptualized and implemented by the best and the brightest minds in this country to obtain an excellent outcome. It is for this reason that the writer strongly urges the government to scrap and reset the project. The writer suggests the government engages the best Ghanaian talents home and abroad in order to save money and future embarrassment. Please do not make a mockery of Ghanaian professionalism!
Charles Amoo-Asante MA MBA