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Don’t underestimate COVID-19 pandemic-West Africa Nobles Forum to EC

The President of the West Africa Nobles Forum has urged the Electoral Commission to immediately cease plans to compile a new register for the 2020 polls.

In spite of the EC’s assurances to promote the high safety protocols, Dr Paul K. Fynn said it appeared the commission was underestimating the dangers involved in spreading the disease among Ghanaians.

He pointed the commission to the chaos and squabbles that characterise the registration process of the past, and asked if the EC had the means to protect the thousands of people political parties were likely to bus to registration centres.

“We cannot pretend not to know what happens during the registration of voters in the country. As we speak, millions of our country folks can’t afford masks, but will be exploited by some reckless politicians, who wouldn’t mind bussing them unprotected or with inferior personal protective equipment because of elections.

“Why this rush? It easier to compile a new register than to bring people who die from coronavirus back to life. Let’s do what is right.

“It took one person to spread the disease among 533 workers inside a company in the Tema Free Zone. So did it take one India expatriate to infect dozens of his colleagues at a railway construction camp in Kpong. It appears the EC is underestimating the seriousness of this virus.

“We need to live to vote. We cannot expose our people to such risks. We have already said in the past that we don’t need a new register to vote. It’s a waste of resources. We are roaming around begging donors to support the construction of new hospitals, but  willing to throw millions of cedis in the drain in the name of a new register,” he told theghanareport.com.

The Electoral Commission had on Monday said it would observe all the necessary safety measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus when it begins compiling a new register of voters.

“All stakeholders are hereby reminded that plans are far advanced for the compilation of a new voter register with a new voter management system for the upcoming 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections”, the EC said in a statement signed and issued by its Acting Public Affairs Director Sylvia Annor.

The EC’s statement was in response to remarks by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, who criticised the chairperson of the commission for running the election management body like a non-governmental organisation.

According to the commission, it was  “sensitive to the current state of affairs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will abide by the necessary precautions and safety protocols in the execution of its mandate when it deems it appropriate to begin the compilation of the register”.

The EC had planned to start the registration of voters in April, but the plane was frozen because of COVID-19 outbreak in the country. Before the COVID-19 scourge, the country’s main opposition parties and a coalition of 18 civil society organisation also opposed the compilation of a new register, insisting it was unnecessary and a waste of state resources.

Resource the NCCE

With the National Commission on Civic Education complaining about lack of resources to support their COVID-19 awareness campaign, Dr Fynn urged political parties to convert their vehicles to COVID-19 campaign vans.

Ghana’s COVID-19 cases on Tuesday jumped to more than 5,100. That, he said should push the political parties to know that it was time for them to channel their energies into creating more awareness about the deadly coronavirus.

“If there has been any time that political parties need to put their vehicles at the disposal of the NCCE, it is now. We need to be alive to listen to the campaign messages.

He said the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) alone could provide at least 550 vehicles as they were present in all constituencies.

“These two parties have enough resources in terms of vehicles to support the NCCE to reach every nook and cranny of this country with education on coronavirus. Until we tame the virus, I doubt if we can have elections. And the best way to do that is to ensure that we get to our people, some of whom do not even believe that the disease exists,” he said.

He also bemoaned what he described as” little attention” being paid to the NCCE to the extent that it had to give its regional offices GHc 100 for their coronavirus education campaigns.

“It looks like we set up our institutions up to fail by starving them of the needed resources, then turn around to blame them for failing to deliver on their mandate. The NCCE is one of such institutions,” he said while urging the government to empower the organisation.

While commending President Akufo-Addo for deciding to present some 10,000 PPEs and money to the NCCE, he said the delay in empowering the commission was unacceptable.

“ A word to the wise is enough. We have the time to deal with awareness creation. Let’s do it now before the situation degenerates into a catastrophe we can’t cope with” he advised.

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