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Produce list of ‘NHIS voters’ Supreme Court orders EC

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Charlotte Osei - Ghana's Electoral Commissioner

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Electoral Commission (EC) to, within six days, furnish it with the full list of all those on the electoral roll who registered with National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards.

The court also ordered the EC to, within the same period, furnish the court with how it intended to comply with the court’s judgement on the electoral register delivered on May 5, 2016.

“The two orders are to be complied with by the commission on or before the 29th of June, 2016,’’ the court, presided over by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, said. 

The court had, in the May 5 judgement, ordered the EC to take immediate steps to delete or clean the names of minors, those deceased and those who registered with NHIS cards from the voters register to comply with the 1992 Constitution.

The order followed an application by Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako, the original plaintiffs in the suit that led to the judgement.

Their application is seeking the court for clarification and further direction on the judgement.

There were supposed to be seven members on the panel to hear the application, but only five members sat on it.

Mr Justice Jones Dotse recused himself, while another member, Mr Justice Joseph Bawa Akamba, had also gone on retirement.

Apart from the Chief Justice, the other members were Messrs Justices A.A. Benin, Paul Baffoe -Bonnie, Anin Yeboah and Sule Gbadegbe.

Application

At yesterday’s hearing of the application, counsel for the two applicants, Nana Asante Bediatuo, said the judgement of the court had generated  controversy, with people coming up with various interpretations.

He argued that the decision of the EC to use the exhibition of the voters register as a means of deleting the names of the affected persons would not lead to compliance with the court’s judgement.

At that point, Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie asked counsel whether the exhibition was not in compliance with the court’s order to the EC to use applicable laws in deleting the names.

Nana Bediatuo answered that although the “exhibition and challenge process under C.I. 91 was a lawful process, it will not result in compliance with the order”.

“With the exhibition and challenge process, a third person must show up and challenge. When the person does not show up, then the affected name will still be in the register,’’ he argued.

He further argued that under C.I. 91, the EC could take steps to remove such names but it had failed to reveal when it would undertake such an exercise, although the 2016 general election would take place in five months.

“We will not allow crisis.’’

One highlight of the hearing yesterday was a pronouncement by the court that it would not allow the EC or anybody to plunge the nation into crisis.

This was after the EC had failed to tell the court the specific road map it (EC) intended to follow to comply with the judgement.

“Let it not be that we make a pronouncement and then we do not care whether or not it is complied with. If this nation gets into crisis, then you blame judges. We will not allow that to happen,’’ Mr Justice Gbadegbe said.

Displeasure 

Counsel for the EC, Mr Thaddeus Sory, had found it hard to convince the court that the EC was complying with the judgement.

He argued that there was no controversy about the judgement and that the EC had initiated the process to comply with the decision.

“We will delete and clean, but in accordance with the law, as stipulated in C.I. 91,’’ he said

Mr Justice Anin Yeboah then asked him to tell the court how the EC intended to comply with the judgement because “the EC cannot say that by virtue of that regulation it will comply with the judgement. There are far-reaching consequences if you do not comply’’.

Counsel repeated the same answer but that did not go down well with the panel.

“Time is running out and we have to be open and transparent as to how the order will be carried out,” the Chief Justice said.

Mr Sory still dwelt on the same answer, as he could not provide the panel with the modalities set out by the EC. 

That further irked the panel.

“Please show a little courtesy. We should all have the interest of this nation at heart, which will lead to peaceful 2016 elections, and so let’s be serious for once.

“We are here to do substantial justice to all Ghanaians. This is not a personal land matter,’’ the Chief Justice said.

EC officials 

With Mr Sory failing to satisfy the court with his answers, the court called the two deputy chairpersons of the EC, Mr Sulley Amadu and Mrs Georgina Opoku Amankwa, who were in the courtroom, to tell it how the EC intended to comply with the judgement.

Mrs Amankwa informed the court that the commission was in the process of announcing to people who registered with NHIS cards to go to the EC for their names to be deleted and, if they qualified to register, for the EC to give them the opportunity to register again.

That answer too did not go down well with the panel, with Mr Justice Benin telling her that the EC should have done that right after the judgement had been given.

“In 2014 when another judgement was given that it was unconstitutional for people to register with NHIS cards, you should have taken steps to delete such names,’’ he said.

Another application 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will, on July 5, 2016, determine whether the current voters register is credible or not.

This follows an application by one Kwame Baffour asking the court to determine “whether or not the current voters register is credible and fit for the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections”.

Counsel for the applicant, Nkrabea Effah-Dartey, prayed the court to make the determination in view of its May 5, 2016 judgement that called on the EC to take steps to clean the register.

“I have examined the issues set out by the judgement and I have discovered that the judgement covered everything but the court stopped short of making a declaration as to whether the register was credible or not,’’ he said.