Ayariga to go to court over proof of citizenship in voter’s register controversy
THE Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, has hinted that he will be headed to the law courts to compel the Electoral Commission to accept birth certificates as proof of citizenship for voter registration purposes.
“If [on] Tuesday, the Constitutional Instrument comes into force, I will go to court to get a court order for the EC to accept my birth certificate as evidence of my eligibility to be registered.
“That I think any citizen can do. Because that is the primary document which proves that I was born on a certain day in Ghana, to parents who were also born in Ghana on a certain day,” he explained.
Per Ghana’s laws, a Constitutional Instrument (CI) needs 21 days of continuous parliamentary sittings to mature.
Birth cert crusade
Mr Ayariga has been on a crusade against the decision of the Electoral Commission to exclude birth certificates as one of the proofs of citizenship to register for the upcoming elections.
His party, the National Democratic Congress had been making similar arguments, insisting that it was not every Ghanaian who had a passport or the Ghana Card–two documents the CI spelt out as required for eligibility for voter registration.
When members of the Subsidiary Legislation, of which Mr Ayariga is a member, went into caucus to deliberate on the Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) 126 and make recommendations for its approval or rejection, he made a strong case for birth certificates to be included in the law.
But at the end of the day, the Minority members on the committee had their say, and the majority had their way.
Twelve members of the committee voted in favour of the C.I. while nine voted against it. Mr Ayariga said the debate and the vote at committee towed partisan lines.
But he insisted on Joy News that he would seek audience with the law court to reverse the law when the C.I matured on Tuesday.
He said the Birth and Death Registry had been given “legal authority to certify my birth and my parentage, that documents will be used to determine my citizenship.”
“It is that document that the EC should rely on. They may rely on other documents like the National Identification Authority because another Act of Parliament establishes the NIA and says that it can identify citizenships and give them a card that they are citizens and it could be used. Another Act also says a passport can also be used,” he explained.
Per the EC’s requirements in the C.I., eligible voters would require a passport or National Identification Authority cards to be registered. Persons who do not have the two documents could be allowed to register if two registered voters vouch for them.
But Ayariga described that part of the new law as being “quite ridiculous.”
“I don’t understand why they choose to ignore a previous certification by the Electoral Commission that I’m a citizen and voted, but today, they won’t accept that but would accept somebody vouching for me that I’m a citizen,” he stated.
He said when he questioned the EC officials about why they were not accepting the birth certificate, the response was that his photograph was not on it.
It is debatable
But his colleague on the Majority side and also member of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, Yaw Buabeng Asamoah believed the issues Mr Ayariga raised were debatable.
“On the face of it, these arguments are beautiful. You are quoting a 1965 Act consequence to which several C.Is have been made that outlaws that act. If you go into it, the law itself states that registration [birth] should be done within 21 days.
“The registration of the birth should be done within 21 days, now we are all aware that people do it 45 years later, 50 years later, 22 years later in order to use it for purposes of their own.
“You are putting a very heavy burden on the EC to determine whether or not the law itself, empowering them [to recognise citizenship] may not have been dealt with effectively.
“When we get to the floor, the debate will be vigorous but two-thirds would decide,”
EC completes pilot registration
Meanwhile, the EC on Wednesday completed its two-day pilot on Tuesday.
Apart from the Western Region, where the exercise was suspended because of technical challenges, the exercise went on in all other 15 regions.
But some opposition parties, especially the National Democratic Congress and Progressive People Party complained of prolong registration time as well as the EC failure of the EC to use its newly acquired biometric verification machines, instead of old ones, for the test run.