(Freetown, Thursday 16 September, 2021) The National Civil Registration Authority and its partners have joined other African states to commemorate the International Identity Day at the Kissy Town Hall Waterloo, Freetown.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is: IDENTITY IS A RIGHT – GO FOR IT.
Present at the occasion were; the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), Conscience International, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Network Aid, the media and Civil Society Organizations.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of the occasion, Paul Bangura of the Conscience International, said that the right for every resident to have a legal Identity document cannot be overemphasized. He stated that the NCRA under the audacious leadership of Mr. Mohamed Mubashir MASSAQUOI has done immensely in ensuring that citizens and non-citizens resident in Sierra Leone have got access to a legal Identity document in the country.
The Programme Manager, Relief and Resettlement Unit of NaCSA, Farama J. Bangura noted that a legal document is very key to the existence of every individual’s life. He said that the NCRA DG has done more than enough in President Bio’s government and commended him for his effort and leadership to ensuring that every resident in Sierra Leone is identified through a legal document especially the one managed by the NCRA.
He mentioned that his institution has collaborated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs through the Immigration Department to ensure that locally integrated refugees acquired a country-of-origin passport and access to resident permit. He disclosed that over 250 locally integrated refugees have access to a country-of-origin passport and resident permit which has successfully paved way for those locally integrated persons to benefit from National implemented projects and programs of government.
Mr. Bangura furthered said that collaborating with the NCRA to develop the National Action Plan on Statelessness was a landmark achievement for this country, he therefore, applauded the NCRA DG for his relentless support and commitment in that direction. He stated that Sierra Leone has gained more international recognition as one of few countries to have adopted the National Action Plan on Statelessness.
He added that by 2024, they are expecting every resident to have access to a legal Identity document of nationality which will prevent one from being stateless. He called on every resident in Sierra Leone to have a legal document as it is a fundamental right and so therefore, they should go for it.
Representative from NASSIT, West-East Branch Office, Samuel Margai said that he was personally pleased to join the NCRA and other stakeholders in commemorating such an important and remarkable day around the world that remind people of their rights to legal identity. He added that the mandate of NASSIT is to register employers and employees, collect contributions and pay pensions retirees. Mr. Margai commended the NCRA DG for his rapid reforms at the Authority, noting that for the past two years the NCRA has complemented the work of NASSIT by making it very easy and lighter in identifying the right individuals to join the NASSIT scheme. He added that data holds the life of every country, and that his institution NASSIT deals with data on the population of Sierra Leone. He mentioned that the Certificate of Registration issued by the NCRA has helped NASSIT in curtailing identity fraud as NASSIT does not register anyone without producing a valid birth certificate and Certificate of registration issued by NCRA.
Idrissa Koroma, National Project Officer of IOM alluded that lack of birth certificate is a recipe for Statelessness. He therefore urged everyone especially parents to ensure that they register their children and acquire a legal Identity document-birth certificate. He disclosed that his organization is currently working on a project on legal identity targeting women and children.
The Chief County Coordinator of Network Aid, Wurie Mamadu Tamba Barrie said that identity starts at birth and admonished parents and others present to desist from the habit of falsifying documents.
Delivering his key note address, the Director-General of the National Civil Registration Authority, Mohamed Mubashir MASSAQUOI applauded the government of Sierra Leone and its development partners for joining the NCRA in commemorating such an important and audacious day. Mr. MASSAQUOI informed all present that this day is important because it seeks to reflect the minds of every resident of this country on the importance and benefits of one being recognized through a legal Identity document.
“Today, 16th September 2021, Sierra Leone joins other countries in Africa and around the globe to commemorate the International Identity Day. This year’s commemoration comes at a time when I have been re-appointed Ambassador for ID4Africa due to strides made by Sierra Leone within the ID ecosystem under the Leadership of H.E. President Dr. Julius Maada Bio, a Champion of Legal Identity Agenda,” the DG announced.
“As a Member of the Advisory Committee – Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) and also the Regional Vice Chairman for Bureau of Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and Identity Management in Africa , I am excited about this day on the note that it is an opportunity for us as a country and as a Government to continue to demonstrate to the African continent and the world at large our sustained resolve and commitment to guarantee the rights of all citizens and non-citizens resident in Sierra Leone the right to Legal Identity through a well-functioning Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and Identity Management System,” he added.
Mr. MASSAQUOI noted that the purpose of this Day is to re-echo the important role identity plays in empowering individuals to exercise their rights and responsibilities fairly and equitably in a free, fair and democratic society like Sierra Leone.
“We are here today, to celebrate with our brothers and sisters from neighboring Liberia, though they were Refugees but have now been integrated into our society whilst maintaining their legal Identity from their country of origin with the support of NaCSA and UNHCR. In Sierra Leone, we will observe this year’s International Identity Day by officially Registering the Births of the children born in Sierra Leone and issue Certificates to them as proof of their Legal Identity demonstrating the commitment of our government to guarantee the rights of all, regardless of origin, race and status. Through this, these children of Refugees and stateless persons born in this land will be legally recognized, protected by our laws and entitled to opportunities like every other Sierra Leonean provided by our government,” he said.
DG MASSAQUOI added that as a country, “we also observe this day to stimulate public interest and engage Legislators and Policy Makers about the responsible adoption of official identity and the corresponding dividend in promoting good governance and improve accountable service delivery.”
He stated that the United Nations defines legal identity as the basic characteristics of an individual’s identity. Example name, sex, place and date of birth conferred through registration and the issuance of a Certificate by an authorized Civil Registration Authority following the occurrence of birth. He added that The United Nations recognizes that when citizens of a country have legal identity, there are often better human rights and development agenda within the context of good governance, accountability and better service delivery.
Mr. MASSAQUOI said that Legal identity promotes service-oriented identity as a pathway to inclusion that allows populations to participate in economic development through reliable access to services.
The DG appealed to His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio to kindly declare 16th September as a National Identity Day in Sierra Leone, whereby NCRA and its Coalition members including Development Partners and Civil Society Organizations will use this Day as an effective and practical way to raise awareness, heighten advocacy and generate momentum on legal Identity for all and its ramifications on political, social, cultural, humanitarian and human rights.
“In my trio capacity (DG & Ambassador ID4Africa, Member of the Advisory Committee – Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) and also the Regional Vice Chairman), I want to seize this opportunity to appeal to H.E. the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone to declare 16th September as National Identity Day for Sierra Leone,” the DG appealed.
The DG said that without the primary documentation needed for legal identification, basic rights and social services like healthcare, school enrolment, bank or financial transaction, services or inclusion and the ability to move outside your country is often restricted or out of reach. Lack of legal identity also means that travel documents, Driver’s License, Pension and Taxation Schemes and Insurance are all of limit to people without legal identity.
Beneficiary women who have now been locally integrated into the Sierra Leonean society shared their respective testimonies.
The occasion was climaxed by a symbolic presentation of birth certificate to registered children, and the DG, NCRA called for a group photo of the locally integrated persons, celebration partners, CSOs and other members as a sign of unity and acceptance in the Sierra Leonean society.
IEC DIRECTORATE, NCRA