A non-governmental organisation (NGO) is challenging government’s decision to conduct a referendum for the creation of new regions in only the affected areas.
Strategic Thinkers Network-Africa (Stranek) is invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to interpret portions of the 1992 Constitution with respect to holding of referenda in the country.
Attached to the suit as respondents are the Attorney-General and the Electoral Commission (EC).
The applicant is seeking a declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly articles 4(1), 5(1), 5(2), 5(3), 5(4) and 5(7) of the 1992 Constitution, read conjointly, the recommendation by the Justice Alan Brobbey Commission of Enquiry on the Creation of New Regions to the effect that only the registered voters in the yet to be created region are entitled to vote at the referendum to be conducted by the EC was unconstitutional, null and void.
“A declaration that the purported restriction of the limited voter registration to only the proposed new regions is arbitrary, whimsical and capricious and violates Articles 45(a) and 296 of the 1992 Constitution and therefore unconstitutional,” the applicant has prayed.
The applicant is pleading with the Supreme Court to grant an order directed EC not to conduct the referendum limited to only the places so recommended.
An interlocutory injunction directed at the EC from going ahead with the limited registration exercise in only the proposed new regions until the determination of this matter is also being sought.
The Plaintiff brought the action to seek the interpretation and/or enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution under articles 2(1) (b) and 130(1) (a) of the 1992 Constitution.
Mr Godwin Kudzo Tameklo, a legal practitioner filed the writ on the NGO’s behalf.
On August 15, 2017, the Council of State advised President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to appoint a Commission of Enquiry to inquire into the need and to make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation of the new regions.
The Commission of Enquiry was established pursuant to Constitutional Instrument, C.I 105 and commenced work on November 21, 2017, in the Western Region.
On June 27, 2018, the Justice Brobbey Commission presented its report to President Akufo-Addo and recommended the creation of six (6) new administrative regions namely: Oti, Ahafo, Brong East, Western North, North East and Savanna.
The Commission of Enquiry recommended to the President that the places where the referendum should be held be limited to the proposed new regions to the exclusion of all and same forwarded to the EC.
Consequently, the EC has set December 27, 2018, for the referendum on the creation of six new regions.
The Electoral Commission recently announced that it would be undertaking a limited registration exercise of Ghanaians who have never registered as voters or who just turned 18 years and reside in the proposed areas in the Northern Region carved out for the creation of two additional Regions being the Savannah and North Eastern Regions and similarly in the other regions of Volta, Brong Ahafo and Western.
The EC has further indicated that the limited voter registration will be restricted to specific areas from the Sunday September 16, 2018 to September 26, 2018.
Statement of Case
The statement of case accompanying the writ indicated that it was discernible from Article 5(7) of the 1992 Constitution, that where the referendum involves a merger of the two or more regions, the people to be affected by the regions to be merged must determine the fate of the regions.
“Clearly, the consideration for determining who is entitled to vote at such a referendum is, those who are affected by the decision to alter, merge or split a region,” the statement of case argued and further queried “when a region is to be split, would it not affect the entirety of the people living in that region? The answer is in the affirmative.”
According to the statement of case argued that, “clearly, if the entire region will be affected by the split, then the people in that region must have a say in the referendum particularly because we have a unitary State.”
It said the discernible spirit from the 1992 Constitution was the fact that “we have a unitary State and that what affects one affects all and also forbids arbitrariness.”
The statement of claim added that “it is, therefore, arbitrary to limit the referendum to only the proposed new regions. To the extent that the Commission of Enquiry decided to limit the referendum to only the proposed new regions, its recommendation is unconstitutional.”