EC Stopped From Using NHIA Cards

Dr Afari GyanThe Electoral Commission (EC) has rescheduled the Voters’ Register revision exercise for August 4 to 13, following the determination of a suit filed against the commission at the Supreme Court yesterday.

The Deputy Chairman of EC in-charge of Operations, Mr. Amadu Sulley says that following the court’s ruling stopping the Commission from accepting National Health Insurance cards, only a Ghanaian passport, a driver’s licence, a National Identification Card or an old Voter ID card issued before the coming into force of C.I 72, would be accepted as means of identification from applicants.

He stressed that by the court’s ruling, the commission had rescinded its earlier decision to accept the NHIA cards as one of the identification documents.

However, he emphasised that, those who qualified to be registered but did not have any of the required identification documents could still have their registration guaranteed by two registered voters.

The registration will still take place at the designated centres in every electoral area between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. daily.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, restrained the EC from the use of NHIS cards and the existing voter ID as a form of identification in the exercise.

The registration, originally intended to commence last Friday, July 25 to August 3, was however, suspended   pending the determination of a suit brought before the Supreme Court to restrain the EC from undertaking the exercise.

The court, a week ago, ordered a stop to advertisements, of the said exercise running in the various media platforms.

Before ruling on the case yesterday the six- member panel, presided over by the Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood, explained that they could not put the reasons together because one of the judges who made up the panel, A.A Benin, doubled as a judge for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and was in Abuja, Nigeria, on an assignment.

The court therefore, fixed October 17, to give reasons for the ruling.

The court granted three out of the four reliefs sought for by the plaintiffs.

Giving the ruling, the court held that upon a true and proper interpretation of the 1992 Constitution, the use of NHIS cards pursuant to Regulation 13 (D) 2012 of CI 72, is inconsistent with Article 42 and therefore, was struck out.

The panel also declared as void, the use of the existing voter registration card as a proof of qualification to register as a voter, pursuant to order 13(E) of CI 72.

It explained that only cards that were acquired at previous elections before the coming into force of CI 72 could be used for the registration, explaining that those acquired biometrically could not be used.

The case was brought against the EC by three persons, Mr. Abu Ramadan National Youth Organiser of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Mr. Evans Nimako, a farmer and Mr. Kwasi Danso Acheampong, a lawyer. Mr. Ramadan and Mr. Nimako were seeking four reliefs while Mr Acheampong also sought a relief that NHIS cards should not be used as identification for the upcoming voters registration.

It was the submission of the plaintiffs that the use of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards to register for a voter card was unconstitutional, void, and incongruous to Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution which states that one must be a Ghanaian, attained the minimum voting age of 18 and of sound mind.

At the last adjourned date, the court gave parties in the case a 24-hour ultimatum to file their statement of case before the hearing of the substantive matter could proceed.

This is contrary to Constitutional Instrument (CI) 72, a legislation enacted by Parliament which provides that the NHIS cards could be used as form of identification to secure a voter’s card.

When hearing began on Thursday, July 23, at exactly 11:30 am, the court   after listening to short submissions by the lawyers, asked both plaintiffs and defendants to file a memorandum of agreed issues.

Nana Asante Bediatuo, lawyer for the plaintiffs, initially prayed the court to strike out the names of registered voters who used the NHIS cards to register as eligible voters.

However, the presiding judge, Mrs. Wood drew his attention to the fact that the court could not grant his application unless the parties affected are given hearing opportunity.

Filing his oral submission, Nana Bediatuo averred that their claim was grounded on three issues; whether or not upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution, a person who applied to register as a voter must prove that his/her qualification was unconstitutional.

The other reliefs, he said, were based on whether or not upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 42, the use of NHIS cards as a proof of qualification to register as a voter pursuant to order 13 (D) of CI 72 was unconstitutional and whether or not the use of existing voter identification card as a proof of qualification to register as a voter pursuant to order 13 (E) of CI 72will be tantamount to an applicant registering more than once and therefore unconstitutional.

Responding, Mr. James Quashie Idun, lawyer for EC, maintained that though the NHIS card was not the best, it was a form of an identity, praying that the court dismissed both suits.

He said most Ghanaians did not hold either National Identification Cards or passports which had proved the best form of identification.

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