Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mopped up in National identification

A couple of hours ago I got mopped up in the zone 4 mass National Identification exercise, the lastphase for the Greater Accra Region. Ghanaians residing in the following areas of the region; ie Adabraka, Tudu, Asylum Down, Osu, Ringway Estate, Labone, Cantonments, La, Burma Camp, Teshie, Nungua, Alajo, Pig Farm, Kotobabi, New Town, Kokomlemle, Roman Ridge, Airport Residential Area, Dzorwulu, Abelenkpe, Shiashie, Okponglo, Legon, Mempeasem, Maamobi, Nima, and Kanda have until next Thursday 11th February to register if they have already missed the first four days of the exercise. Lucky me, I took advantage of a Mopping Up exercise in another community outside the ones I’ve listed above, I missed the train at my residential area.

The National Identification registration exercise has been characterized by long queues and sporadic skirmishes since it started last November. Apparently this is not an unusual phenomenon to law abiding Ghanaians who always have to spend long hours waiting in winding “lines” to get their particulars filed. The last time a similar thing occurred was in 2008 during the registration for the voter’s identification card and seemingly during the presidential election in December. Folks who live in largely populated areas sometimes wake up at dawn to go queue up in wait for registration officers.

To avoid squabbles from trouble makers who do not appreciate the “luxury” of queues, a “common-sense” man in the community who lives close to the centre may decide to assign unsolicited numbers as and when the line keeps maturing. Occasionally one is replaced by a proxy, when he is tired or has some house-hold duties to carry out but comes back just on time to register when its his turn after getting a “flash” on his mobile phone. Else the waiting would be in vain and if you’re “lucky” the best thing to do is to perhaps start all over again from the back of the queue. You probably do not want a fight, do you?

These tendencies often discourage me to partake in the process until I’m convinced that I will spend not more than 10 minutes at the registration centre. So like I always wanted, today I spent approximately 15minutes to go through the entire process of getting my particulars filled in and having my passport-sized picture taken. At the end of the process I was given a printout to vet the details I had provided at the first point of call desk. There, an earlier identification document was requested it can a baptismal card or certificate, birth certificate, birth weighing card, voter’s ID card, passport, driver’s license, SSNIT card, National Health Insurance ID card, sworn affidavit, immigration permit, dual citizenship certificate, naturalization certificate. But I was reliably informed that persons without any ID documents will be registered on oath, and voila! Here’s my passport. I thought it was interesting to be asked where my parents were born (in my father’s case I wasn’t too sure, maybe I lied) and who my next of kin is. In my moment of soliloquizing, I thought, “yo! Lady, it’s too early for a young single guy to talk about "who will take after me?" especially when I would not be receiving any freebie or largess after the process when I’m no more.” I suggested my junior sister, Kiki. I took my height from a wall with chalk markings, 158cm it read.

Now here I am facing the lady in the video, submitted the filled out sheet of my particulars to her from which she keyed in the data on to her laptop. Obviously this is the reason for the long queues; the lady was too slow at typing. But in Ghana things are done in reverse, and even with the advent of computers and technology, “so-so” bureaucracy! Here I think my data should have been directly entered on to the computer at the first desk to avoid double processing and time wastage. Both my left and right index fingers and thumbs were digitally scanned twice; my signature was required on a digital plate by way of an electronic pen. And then I straightened up for the camera. No hustle!

I’ll get my national ID card later in the year when a general announcement is made about its readiness. I foresee looming long queues again. This is Ghana; nothing is done without long queues. If you doubt, check out the public toilets in the slums every morning.

Unlike the voter’s ID registration where you’re required to register within the constituency of your residence, one can register at any place in the country. But if you miss the mass registration phase of this exercise, plans are afoot for Regional Offices to remain opened for your sake.

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