There appears to be confusion over the proper interpretation of the order given to the Electoral Commission (EC) by the Supreme Court on the cleaning of the biometric voter register.
The highest court has described the register to be used in the crucial general election in November as ‘reasonably inaccurate’ and ordered the EC to remove the names of dead persons, minors as well as those who used the National Health Insurance card as proof of citizenship in the 2012 registration exercise when the first biometric register was compiled.
Whilst many opposition parties, led by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), are calling on the EC to implement the court’s order without delay since the elections are about six months away, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), which appointees have virtually turned into unofficial spokespersons of the commission, wants the EC to take time to do its work, irrespective of the situation the country finds itself.
The commission itself has not been clear on the way forward on the emerging issues and the NPP in particular and some political experts in general have not been enthused about the seeming indifference by the EC as November approaches.
At one point the EC claimed it was already in the process of implementing the court’s decision long before the order was issued yet at another, it said it was studying the Supreme Court’s ruling and come out with the appropriate response.
At a media encouter last Thursday, one of the deputy commissioners, Georgina Opoku Amankwa, said although the commission was yet to receive a copy of the full judgment, it already had a programme in place to institute what the court had ordered, virtually rubbishing the court order.
Without revealing a detailed plan, Mrs. Opoku Amankwa said, “The good thing is that, what the Supreme Court is asking the EC to do is something that we have already put in place a programme to deal with. The nitty gritties are yet to be found out in the judgment itself which we are yet to be furnished with.”
Strangely, on Friday, another Deputy Commissioner in-charge of Operations, Amadu Sulley, said in a statement that the EC had already discussed with the political parties on the way forward.
“The EC has discussed the roadmap for cleaning the voter roll with the parties at the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting held on Friday, March 18, 2016. It was agreed that the audit process as outlined by the commission, was inclusive, transparent and within the remit of the law. That the audit of the biometric voter register will take place during the scheduled exhibition period after the limited voter registration exercise,” he said.
It was made known that the EC had already disclosed to the parties that the supposed audit would involve removal of deceased registered voters, removal of multiple registrations with the help of the AFIS software, removal of alleged minors and non-Ghanaians based on the production of evidence.
The statement also said the EC was “studying the judgment and its implications on the audit mechanisms………….and the implications for registered voters who registered with the NHIS cards. The commission will make its views on the matter known in due course.”
In the midst of the confusion, NDC MP for Tamale Central, Inusah Fuseini, who is a legal practitioner, has said as far as he is concerned, there is no ambiguity in the ruling given by the court last Thursday.
Fusieni, who is also the Roads and Highways Minister, said on Joy FM that the judgment is clear that names of persons who used National Health Insurance cards during the registration must be removed from the register.
“The primary basic law says that every Ghanaian of sound mind can register; the subsidiary law sets out the criteria for determining who a Ghanaian citizen is; somehow when the register was compiled some people used the NHIA card as proof of citizenship to register.”
He added, “In an earlier decision of the court, it said those cards cannot otherwise be used to prove the citizenship of a Ghanaian to be on the register. That being so, the names of people who used those cards to get onto the register ought to be deleted because the cards couldn’t establish their citizenship.”
The committee of eminent persons put together by the EC to recommend ways to make the register credible had said about 600,000 persons on the register might be dead; and apart from that, the EC appears to be aware that millions of people might have used NHIS cards to get their names on the current register.
A document sighted by DAILY