Opinion: I agree but it’s not practical to register 16.5m people in 40 days

EC Chair, Mrs Jean Mensa

I am a citizen

I am the son of a gong-gong beater.

The Electoral Commission has been adamant to advice about stopping the New Voters register amidst the Coronavirus pandemic and heed advice to conduct limited Registration.

They have actually gone ahead to set a new date for the compilation of the proposed new register at their last IPAC meeting awaiting a court decision on the NDC supreme Court suit on the constitutionality of the C.I 126.

While the EC intends to begin the piloting next week, the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament is also set to begin deliberations on the bill next Sednesday, June 3rd, 2020.

An African proverb says “It’s only a fool that tests the depth of a river with both feet”. Which means that do not leap into a situation without first thinking about the consequences? I am sure the Electoral commission knows better than this.

Is it possible to register 16.5 Million people within 40 days, under safety regulations announced by the EC to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Why can’t the EC use limited registration to clean the register?

Even the NIA that started its operations almost year ago hasn’t been able to deliver on their mandate as at today. More than 50% of eligible voters don’t have their Ghana Card

Can someone educate us?

We used birth certificates to acquire passports, and birth certificates to acquire Ghana Cards; so why can’t people use birth certificates to register to vote?

Does the EC know that the cost of a passport is over the minimum wage in Ghana? All Ghanaians cannot afford to acquire passports.?

What are the bare facts of practicability on a registration day?

Assuming all things being equal and with all the necessary COVID-19 protocols in place i.e. washing of hands, sanitizers etc., it will take a minimum of 10 minutes to register one person. Don’t forget that equipments will be sanitized after each registrant. That means we can have only 6 or less people getting registered in one hour. We have 10 hours daily so in effect we can register about 60 people in a day.

The Electoral Commission has ear-marked 6 days of registration to every polling station. Obviously 60 people getting registered in a day by the 6 days will give you only 360 registrants.

The polling station where I vote has about 700 voters on the register, excluding those who have just turned 18 years.

Can you anticipate the chaotic situation we are bound to face when this registration begins? And don’t forget we are in the rainy season.

The functions of the Electoral Commission as captured in Article 45(e) states inter alia “to undertake programmes for the expansion of registration of voters..”

Is the Electoral Commission seeking to solely rely on the use of Passport and Ghana Card as the only admissible personal identification documents for purpose of registering prospective eligible voters on the proposed new electoral register?

Is the Electoral Commission upholding the stipulation of expanding the registration of voters?

Or is the EC rather seeking to shrink (condense) the registration of voters and thus reduce the total number of potential eligible voters on the electoral register ?

The Electoral Commission appears it doesn’t care about the lives of Ghanaians and any form of violence that may arise within this short time specified for a new register.

They just don’t care because they will do anything to please their pay masters.

It is said that “the rain beats the leopard’s skin but it does not wash out its spots.” Which means no matter how hard you try, you cannot change another person’s character.

Similarly, if you behave badly and develop a poor reputation, it’s difficult to change other people’s opinions of you, regardless of how many good deeds you perform.

The Electoral Commission is becoming a “stubborn cat,” and doesn’t fear even God.

The National Identification Authority in whose womb lies the Registration and distribution of Ghana Cards started their journey with piloting in June 2018.

Prior to this, they did a lot of preparations, technical trials of equipments before rolling out the mass registration exercise

They went ahead to start mass registration in Greater Accra, specifically in the Adentan Municipality on the 5th November 2018, after the recruitment of Commissioners of Oath hitch that delayed the process.

As at November 2018, about 80,000 people had been registered which included Parliament and some Security Agencies.

NIA registration was clustered from Greater Accra which was zoned and ended on the 6th July, 2018.

The Volta and Oti Regions started from the 15th July to 1st August, 2019.

Northern, Savannah and North East Regions from 13th August to 2nd September, 2019.

The Upper East and Upper West Regions had their turn from 12th September to 29th September, 2019.

Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regions, from 10th October to the 30th October, 2019.

Western and Western North Regions from 11th November to 2nd December, 2019.

The Ashanti Region from 10th December, 2019 to 31st January, 2020.

The Eastern Region started from 12 February to 4th March, 2020 and again in the Eastern Region, from 13th March to 31st March, 2020. This exercise was suspended due to the COVID -19 restrictions.

The Head of NIA Corporate Affairs, Assistant Commissioner of Immigration (ACI) Francis Palmdeti disclosed to the Ghanaian Times on 16th September 2019 that about 2.9 million Ghanaians, aged 15years and above, have so far been registered by the National Identification Authority (NIA) for the Ghana Card.

Out of the figure, exactly 2,902,035, the authority has printed 2,590,526 cards out of which it has issued 1,718,021 to their respective owners.

This data covers registration conducted in the Greater Accra, Volta and Oti Regions between June 4, 2018 and Saturday, September 14, 2019.

According to a Citinewsroom report on the 6th January, 2020, the National Identification Authority (NIA) had so far registered 5.9 million (5,907,536) people as at the end of 2019 in the nationwide mass registration exercise.

Out of this number, the authority had printed 5.1 million (5,167,994) cards.

As at the 13 February, 2020, the GNA reported that, the National Identification Authority (NIA) had registered 8,733,440 eligible Ghanaians for the Ghana Card as at Tuesday, February 11, 2020, with 7,436,522 cards printed and 5,332,620 issued to applicants.

It had, so far, registered 2,467,617 in the Ashanti Region, 1,995,669 in the Greater Accra, Volta – 568,265, Central – 625,803, Northern – 510,047 and Western – 530,684.

The rest of the regions are: Oti – 360,296, Bono – 294,440, Bono East – 277,485, Upper East – 220,191, North East – 197,057, Western North – 217,719, Savannah – 178,009, Upper West – 146,976, Ahafo – 141,191.

Mr Francis Palmdeti, the Head of the Corporate Affairs of the NIA, told the Ghana News Agency in Accra that the NIA was registering people in the Western, Western North and Central Regions.

Ghanaian CSOs such as Institute of Democratic Governance, IMANI GHANA, IDEG and CDD GHANA have also added their voices and called for limited registration in place of new voters’ register compilation according to a myjoyonline report of 26th May, 2020.

Leading Governance Experts have raised public health concerns over the Electoral Commission’s decision to compile a new register instead of undertaking a limited registration exercise as Covid-19 lingers on.

Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director, Institute of Democratic Governance, Franklin Cudjoe, President, Imani Africa, Dr. Kojo Asante of CDD Ghana who were speaking on the AM Show on Joy News, explained that it will be safer to update the current register with approximately two million new voters than compile a new one for an estimated 17 million voters. Their comments came ahead of an Inter Party Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday May 27, 2020 where the Electoral Commission briefed IPAC on preparation for the voters’ registration exercise.

Meanwhile , Ghana’s Coronavirus case tally has reached 7616 as at Friday, 29th May, 2020.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel and Head of UNOWAS, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas says, the UN has been having frequent consultations with the Ghana Electoral Commission, to share ideas in the discharge of its duties.

He said there is a network of Electoral Commissions in West Africa that meet and share ideas on the best practices from their countries.

Speaking at a special round table with Business Executives and Policy Makers in Accra, Dr Ibn Chambas said the EC in Ghana has the responsibility to ensure that all eligible voters are captured in the voters register.

However, in carrying out its mandate, the EC should ensure that all its stakeholders are consulted.

Before I pen off, let me quote a famous African proverb that says that “ the Rain does not fall on one roof alone”. Which means trouble does not discriminate. It comes to everyone at some point in time.

Secondly, “ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off”. Which means a
person who does not heed to advice will suffer the consequences also.

We are better off going ahead with the Limited Registration as a peaceful country to save lives during this pandemic and possible violence during the upcoming mass registration than saying that “ you can have your day but we will have our way.” The EC must listen.

I remain the echoing voice of a village scribe and the son of a gong-gong beater.

By TT Caternor, La Dadekotopon

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