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Opinions of Thursday, 4 June 2020

Columnist: YOFAG

Our judges must save 'fragile' Ghana now

Youth for Accountable Governance (YOFAG) has observed that Ghana is fast edging towards becoming a fragile State in Africa through the brazen attempt by the Electoral Commission of Ghana to destroy the foundations of our cherished democracy and time honoured principles of constitutionality and respect for the “rule of law”.

YOFAG posits that Ghana is gradually creeping towards the precipice and may earn the unenviable title designation of “fragile State” because of some public utterances and intemperate words used by notable political actors from our political parties and contradictory comments by Senior Officials (Public Officers) of the Electoral Commission (EC) that could ignite a “declaration of war” over the EC’s unjustifiable desire to compile a needless new electoral register to be used for the 2020 general elections. The EC has also displayed unprecedented levels of obstinacy.

The position of the EC has made it very difficult for most of the opposition political parties to trust the motives of the EC under the current leadership and executive Management of Jean Mensa and Dr Charles Asare Bossman.

There have been numerous threats and counter threats issued from all angles on the EC by political players who have condemned the contradictory public utterances and unbecoming behaviour and posturing of the EC.

Thankfully, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in an attempt to rescue the potential calamitous situation has petitioned the Supreme Court of Ghana (SC) for judicial interpretation of the untenable position and intention of the EC to solely use the Ghana Card and Ghana Passport as the only admissible personal identification documents to be used by prospective eligible voters seeking to registered on the proposed new electoral register to be compiled.

YOFAG is of the considered opinion and is mindful that with the limited time available for the EC to fulfil and complete other equally important and necessary statutory functions, processes and activities before the elections are held on 7th December 2020, the EC should be minded to better use the limited time available and limited public financial resources to undertake a limited voter registration exercise to capture eligible voters who have now turned +18 years, and abandon the attempt to compile a fresh electoral register to be used for the 2020 elections.

YOFAG contends that a limited voter registration exercise will enable the EC assure all stakeholders and Ghanaians that they could deliver and guarantee the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections within the available tight timelines between now and 7th December 2020 when the elections are statutorily mandated to be held.

Today every Ghanaian is looking up to our revered and respected Judges on the Supreme Court (SC) to decide the fate of Ghana and thus uphold the “rule of law” and citizen’s fundamental human rights and right to vote that is guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution. Whether Ghana will break down and experience strife now rests on the shoulders and decision by our Judges on the SC, and their favourable unambiguous verdict in response to the NDC petition.

Dr Serebour Quaicoe (Director of Elections at the Electoral Commission) on a recent Newsfile current affairs radio program hosted by Joy FM categorically stated that the option of using the current voters register for the 2020 elections had not been ruled out by the EC because the current voters register was deemed to be credible on only needed modification to be updated.

Dr Serebour on Citi TV also publicly reported that if the SC ruled in favour for the inclusion of the current voter ID cards for purposes of registering new eligible voters, that verdict and decision by the SC will make the work of EC very easy, and pave the way for the EC to withdraw C.I. 126. This may help avert any potential acts of election related violence that could arise should only Ghana Card and Passport be used for compilation of a fresh electoral register.

We also note that Dr Serebour in March this year stated emphatically on Citi TV that Ghana Card issued by the National Identification Authority (NIA) would not be used should the Supreme Court rule in favour of the NDC. And that it will have no option than to resort to the current voters ID cards will be used for the purpose of identity verification to enable the EC process new voter role.

The above statements attributed to Dr Serebour clearly shows that the EC does not have any issue with the current electoral register.

Besides the statements by Dr Serebour, prominent members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), notable personalities like Honourable PC Appiah Ofori, Dr Charles Wereko Brobbey, and Lawyer Akoto Ampaw together with some notable Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and governance think tanks including the Institute for Democratic Governance, IDEG, Centre for Democratic Governance, CDD and policy Think Tank, IMANI Africa have all made statements against compilation of a fresh new electoral register and rather recommend that the current electoral register should be updated.

We urge our eminent Judges of the SC to reflect on the recent limited voter registration exercise that was conducted by the EC in 2019 for the District Assemblies referendum where a little over 1million new voters were registered during an exercise that was undertaken by the EC in 21days. So by simple extrapolation and mindful of prevailing Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing my question is? Can the EC having used 21 days during limited registration of 1million voters in 2019 now use only 40 days to register +17million voters?

The National Identification Authority (NIA) has publicly confirmed that a little over 7 million people have been issued with the Ghana Card after one year of NIA Ghana Card registration. The figure quoted by NIA may perhaps need to be interrogated and subjected to further public scrutiny. Question? How can the NIA use 21days to undertake a Ghana Card registration mop up throughout the country to register and capture the over 10 million people yet to be issued with Ghana Cards? This is a feat the NIA could not accomplish in one year and as such should be considered practically impossible!

For the proposed exercise to compile a new electoral register the EC argues that one person (individual) who had successfully registered for the new electoral register could guarantee up to 10 prospective eligible voters who do not have a Ghana Card or Passport. Question? Considering the prevailing polarized atmosphere in the country will an NPP person (supporter) who has successfully registered willingly agree to guarantee for an NDC person (Supporter)? We all know that this is virtually impossible.

Another potential challenge in getting a large number of eligible voters to be registered is the proposal by the EC to adopt a cluster system of polling stations for the registration exercise and also spend just 6 days at each polling station a number of days that is significantly shorter than the 10days the EC used per single polling station for the 2019 limited registration exercise.

Even if the Coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic were not an issue, with just about 12 million eligible voters in 2012, the Dr Afari Gyan led EC spent 10days at each polling station to compile the current register, so how many eligible voters can be registered under prevailing Covid19 restrictions when compilation of a fresh voters register involving +17million eligible voters has to be undertaken and completed in a relatively short timeline? These constraints suggests that several eligible voters will not be registered and shall effectively be disenfranchised by the EC, the statutory agency that is supposed to get more citizens to exercise their suffrage rights and right to vote during public elections.

Finally, Joyce Bamford Addo JSC put it more succinctly in the case of NPP V IGP [1993-94] GLR 459 at 482 when she asserted:

“…..fundamental human rights are inalienable and can neither be derogated from nor be taken away by anyone or authority whatsoever….This Court (Supreme Court of Ghana) is therefore not permitted to give an interpretation which seeks to tamper in any way with the fundamental human rights but rather must see that they are respected and enforced”

YOFAG hereby humbly calls upon our learned Judges of the Supreme Court to favourably consider arguments they adduce and the reasons they advance for their expected favourable ruling on this very important issue that could make and unmake the whole nation.

The eyes of the people will continue to be focused on our judges for their judgment.

By the YOFAG Communication unit

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