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Boycott! Lower Manya Krobo declares ‘self-government’

BY: Isaac Yeboah

Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Akwasi Oppon-FosuThe Lower  Manya  Krobo Municipal Assembly (LMKMA) may soon be counting its losses in taxes following the declaration of “self-governance” by the chiefs and people of the Manya Krobo Traditional Council.
The decision means a boycott of the payment of tolls, taxes and levies which constitute internally generated funds (IGFs) on which the assembly runs.

Currently, an interim management team is managing the affairs of the assembly, which has been without elected members since 2010.

Last week, the Manya Krobo Traditional Council issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Electoral Commission (EC) to announce a date for assembly elections, which were not held in 2010 because of a dispute over the alignment of seven electoral areas in the municipality in the Eastern Region with the Dangme West District in the Greater Accra Region.

The ultimatum

In a letter dated Tuesday, September 24, 2013 and addressed to the Chairman of the EC, the council had stated that the date for the election must not be later than Friday, October 25, 2013, the day for the grand durbar for this year’s annual Ngmayem Festival.

But with the EC failing to yield to their demands, the chiefs and people made their intention to carry out their threat known at a press conference at the Agormanya Roman Catholic Parish Hall.

Speaking at the highly charged press conference, Nene Asada Ahor I, the Chief of Akuse and Public Relations Officer of the council, warned: “If by the last week of this month, when we celebrate our annual Ngmayem Festival, the elections are not held, we will take the campaign a step further to aggressively demand our constitutional rights as a people.”

He did not reveal what the council would do further, but said it would be made known at the right time.

More than 50 armed riot policemen pitched camp at the church to ensure law and order at the press conference.

Even though the event was peaceful, seemingly angry natives of the area, clad in red, intermittently sang war songs and chanted in unison to express their frustration at the prevailing situation.

Nene Ahor said the chiefs and people had been compelled to take the decision following what they “perceived as blatant disregard for our welfare and constitutional right to issue a seven-day ultimatum, within which the EC was expected to, if for nothing at all, announce the provisional date for the elections. Once again, our request and ultimatum were treated with scorn”.

The chiefs and people of Manya Krobo and the EC have been in disagreement since 2010.

Even though the case went to court and the Supreme Court, on June 13, 2012, ruled in favour of the traditional council, thereby preventing the EC from altering the borders of the Manya Krobo municipality, appeals to the EC to organise the assembly election have not yielded any fruit.

Letter from the Presidency

Indeed, a letter dated June 28, 2013, signed by Dr Raymond Atuguba, the Executive Secretary to the President, addressed to the Chairman of the EC and copied to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and the Office of the President had asked the EC to take the required action on a request from the Local Government Ministry for elections to be held in the municipality.

In that respect, Nene Ahor said, “For nearly three years we have not had assembly members in our various communities as the other municipalities and districts in the country do and nobody is giving us any official reason for the continuous delay, despite our numerous appeals.”

Mr Philip Tetteh Padi, the Commissioner for Kloma Gbi, a Krobo youth pressure group,  said, “The chiefs are not into this campaign alone. We the youth and the citizenry are in as well and will contribute to any effort and activity lined up to demand our constitutional rights.”

Assembly’s response

In his reaction, the Municipal Chief Executive, Mr Isaac Agbo Tetteh, said while he agreed with the need for the EC to hold elections, the assembly would not endorse the action of the chiefs and the people.

“It is against the law to incite people not to pay tolls and taxes. As far as I’m concerned, the law is explicit; not even the President nor I can prevent people from paying taxes,” he added.

Responding to the concerns raised, the Public Affairs Director of the EC, Mr Christian Owusu-Parry, said he was not “aware of any letter on the outstanding district level elections”.

He said it was not the fault of the EC that the elections were not held in the municipality in 2010.

“Before the elections, the people of Lower Manya Krobo stormed the EC office and locked the place up because of challenges with some electoral areas. By that conduct, they made it impossible for us to conduct the elections,” he said.

That notwithstanding, Mr Owusu Parry said, currently the issue was being given consideration by the EC.

He said after the Supreme Court ruling, there had been consultations between the EC and the Local Government Ministry.

He, however, declined to give timelines for the elections in the municipality, saying, “I cannot give the exact date the election will be held there but it is being given due consideration.”

Background

In 2010, a Parliamentary Sub-Legislation Committee, acting on the Local Government Instrument 2010, LI 1983 (Creation of New District Electoral Areas and Designation of Units), illegally aligned seven electoral areas — Zongo New Town, Akutue, Osukutu, Bungalow, Amedeka, Salon and Natriku — at Akuse, originally part of the Lower Manya Krobo municipality in the Eastern Region to the Dangme West District (now Shai-Osudoku District) in the Greater Accra Region, sparking off a boundary dispute that led to the suspension of the assembly elections in the entire municipality.

Subsequent to that, attempts were made by the EC during the 2010 district assembly elections to rope the candidates of the seven disputed electoral areas into the  elections under the Dangme West District, leading to a near bloody attack and months-long closure of the EC’s office in the Manya Krobo District.

The elections, however, took place at Natriku but not at the other six communities.

As a result, the Manya Krobo Traditional Council, led by the Defender of the Krobo State, Mahefalor Nene Kwesitsu Azago I, and Mr Charles Mate-Kole secured an injunction to restrain the EC from conducting the elections in the entire Manya Krobo municipality, rendering the assembly empty till date.

After what proved to be a costly legal battle spanning a period of one-and-a-half years (December 2010 to June 2012), the Supreme Court declared the said LI 1983 unconstitutional and retained the electoral areas in Lower Manya in the Eastern Region.

But more than two years after the assembly elections were held nationwide and nearly one-and-a-half years after the ruling on the dispute by the Supreme Court (on June 13, 2012), the elections are yet to be held.

By Seth J. Bokpe & Henking Adjase-Kodjo/Daily Graphic/Ghana