Election 2024: Ghana Card sine qua non

Identity documents, the commonest being national identity cards, allow people to exist in the eyes of society.

Citizens use them whenever they need to prove who they are or where they come from, to fulfil their civic duties or cross borders.

Without a legal identity document, citizens cannot access basic human rights such as health care, education, social welfare and the right to work, yet around a third of the world’s population lack an official ID.  

While some countries are now grappling with the challenges and potential benefits of registering all residents, the United Nations goal of “legal identity for all” by 2030 remains  distant.

For governments, who have the ultimate responsibility to provide their citizens with a proof of identity, offering them robust and long-lasting documents to protect their identities is crucial.

Ensuring that civilians can rely on these secure documents to conveniently access the necessary services in the physical and digital world must also be a top priority.

Across the globe, legal identification is required for essential tasks such as opening a bank account, accessing government assistance and services, and performing civic duties.

Thus, in Ghana when moves were initiated to enable citizens and foreigners living in Ghana to own and acquire the Ghana Card, many welcomed the news.

Unfortunately, the process of acquisition has been plagued with logistical challenges, especially the prompt release of funds to ensure that the card is made available to those who desire it.

The need to discuss the Ghana Card and the challenges around its issuance cannot be overemphasised, especially when the Electoral Commission (EC) stated last week Thursday that the guarantor system had outlived its usefulness, hence the need for the adoption of a system that would ensure that every registrant was identified on his or her own merit rather than another person vouching for the age and nationality of that person (See Friday, September 19, 2023, Daily Graphic, pages 10 and 23).

Some people may disagree with the EC on the grounds that not every Ghanaian has the Ghana Card or that the guarantor system had been with us since time immemorial. Some even argue that the NIA also uses the guarantor system to issue cards to qualified people.

But for how long do we have to use the guarantor system in every registration exercise?

Even if the NIA uses the guarantor system, would it not be easier for applicants of the voter ID cards to use the Ghana Card to facilitate the process?

Indeed, many civil servants and public sector workers are yet to receive their salaries for the month of September because they have been asked by their various agencies to produce their Ghana Card for validation before they are paid.

It is a fact that this is not the only time government workers have been asked to produce one form of identification or another before being paid.

In its limited voter registration, pictures and videos have gone viral on social media of minors and in some instances, applicants alleged to be foreigners, seen trying to register for the voter ID.

By the 16th day of the registration, the EC had recorded a total of 7,561 challenged cases in all the Registration Centres, constituting 1.12 per cent of all the registered voters.

This raises a lot of concern and we believe that all the relevant stakeholders – political parties, civil society organisations and parents – have a responsibility to deal with the canker of minors and foreigners taking advantage of the guarantor system to register.

Our democracy would be better if we help the EC to keep a credible voter register.

We, therefore, urge eligible Ghanaians who are yet to secure the Ghana Card to do so before the next window of the registration exercise opens next year.

The Daily Graphic also appeals to the government to support the National Identification Authority (NIA) with the requisite logistics and funds to register all qualified persons seeking the Ghana Card.

We also expect the NIA to be proactive to engage the services of the Information Services Department to undertake public education on its behalf to encourage those who have registered to turn up in their offices to pick up their cards.

It is about time we took the acquisition of the Ghana Card seriously and shouldn’t wait for compelling circumstances and directives to push us to acquire it.

Having a voter register with only qualified persons is very central to protecting the country’s democracy.

Let us, therefore, support the EC and play our part well to keep the sanctity of our democracy.

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