The Coalition of Northern Savannah Civil Society Organisations have expressed their disappointment in Ghana’s Parliament for failing to build consensus on the use of the existing voters’ ID card for the compilation of the new voters’ Register and went ahead to recommend for adoption of the Public Elections (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (CI 126) brought to the House by the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) through the Attorney General’s Department.
In an address at a Press conference at Tamale covered by Bole based Nkilgi FM on 10th June 2020 to state their position on the compilation of the new voter’s register, the spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Savannah Civil Society Organisations Mr. Richard B.T. Zangba said, “We are highly disappointed in our representatives because, the adoption of the CI 126 by the House has now cleared the way for only the Ghanaian passport and the National Identification Authority (NIA) cards to be used as the basic documents to prove a person’s citizenship for registration of the new voter’s card”.
He said the people who will be greatly affected by this latest development in terms of threats to their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote are those of us in the five regions in Northern part of Ghana because over 50% of the registrable population could not register for the NIA Cards and will therefore have to go through very stressful conditions at the expense of farming activities and terrible COVID-19 Pandemic to get the few numbers that had the card to vouch for us.
According to him, a closer look at credible and verifiable data from both the Ghana Statistical Service and that of the National Identification Authority is quite worrying as it points to the fact that a good number of the people will be disenfranchised unless the EC reconsiders its decision and suspend the exercise for all to get the NIA Card.
Mr. Richard B.T. Zangba stated that statistics have it that out of the 997,539 of persons aged 18 and above in the Northern Region, only 510,988 had the opportunity to register with the NIA with 357,813 representing less than 35% of the qualified voter population issued with the cards so far.
“Similarly in the Savannah region, only 178,266 people were able to register with the NIA out of a qualified population of 342,685 with 128,759 issued with the card”; he said.
He further noted that the sad story is not different in North-East, Upper East and Upper west Regions.
He explained that the North-East with a total registrable population of 379,351 had a low number of 197,227 getting the opportunity to register with the NIA with only 134,985 issued with the cards.
“In the case of the Upper West Region only 147,006 were able to register out of a qualified voter population of 492,511 with only 26,638 currently holding their cards” Mr Zangba said.
“The situation in the Upper West appears to be the worst case because of the 708,584 qualified voters population, only 220,191 were registered with the NIA and out of this number only 13,211 representing just 6% received the NIA Cards; he said; adding; “In the five Northern Region of Ghana in all, the total population of Northern Ghana aged 18 and above stands at 2,920,670 and 1,253,678 representing just 42.9% was able to register for the NIA Card with only 661,406 issued with the cards so far”.
“For you to appreciate the gravity of the problem you must note that those issued with the cards as a percentage of the registrable population in Northern Ghana is as low as 22.6% and from this, it makes it clear that 77.4% of the total registrable population in Northern Ghana will have to do away with their livelihood activities and spend precious time struggling to look for the small number of 22.6% to vouch for them to qualify as a citizen regardless of the right to vote in Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution”; which he said states; “Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda.”
Mr Richard said it is in the light of the above well explained reasons that this Coalition is adding its voice to the numerous calls on the EC to, in the name of peace and security of this country, reconsider its decision to compile the new Voters’ Register using the NIA Card and the Passport by postponing the exercise for all Ghanaians aged 18 and above to get the NIA Card that the commission has sought legislation in parliament to give it legal backing for registration.
“The decision of the EC to continue after the piloting exercise, if allowed, will not only cause dissatisfaction and apprehension among many Ghanaians but will also, without doubt, disenfranchise a good number of qualified Ghanaians especially those of us in the five regions in Northern Ghana” he explained.
Mr. Richard B.T. Zangba the spokesperson concludes his speech urging the EC to be more responsive to all genuine concerns of citizens.
“We are reminding the EC that Ghana occupies an enviable position in the sub-region when it comes to peaceful management of elections before, during and after and that must be maintained and sustained by all means and at all cost; he stated.