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Defence Minister Nitiwul, NDC trade accusations over voters registration

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman & Kester Aburam Korankye

The Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have traded accusations over the alleged prevention of some people to register in the last phase of the mass voters registration exercise in the Banda area of the Bono Region.

While Mr Nitiwul explained that soldiers were sent to the area by the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to enforce an agreement reached between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the NDC on the bussing of people to registration centres, the NDC, led by its General Secretary, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, and the Ranking Member on Defence Committee of Parliament, Mr James Agalga, said the acts by the military were meant to allegedly prevent NDC supporters from getting their names onto the electoral roll in order to give undue advantage to the NPP in the December 7 polls.

No prevention anywhere

Fighting off the accusations by the NDC, Mr Nitiwul told journalists in Parliament House yesterday that there was nowhere in the country where soldiers were preventing Ghanaians from registering in the ongoing mass voter registration exercise.

He accused former President John Dramani Mahama and his followers of deliberately misleading Ghanaians, particularly, the people of Ketu South in the Volta Region and Banda, to think that the military were deployed to the area to suppress registration.

The minister said the figures coming out of the voters registration in the two areas had proved otherwise.

NDC accusation

Mr Nitiwul’s defence of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) came as Mr Asiedu Nketiah accused the military of intimidating some groups of persons in the quest to prevent them from participating in the ongoing mass voters registration exercise.

The NDC scribe told the Daily Graphic yesterday that armed soldiers that had been deployed to the Banda District had mounted road blocks preventing some groups of people known to be NDC supporters living along the Bui Dam from registering.

He said he was an eyewitness to the intimidation, and accused the NPP of being behind what he described as the despicable acts by the soldiers.

Ready to act

But, the Defence Minister said the government had not conceived, planned or had an intention of suppressing any potential voter who was qualified as a Ghanaian to register his or her name in the ongoing voters registration exercise.

He, therefore, described as unfortunate the accusation by the former President to use Banda as an example of voter suppression, saying that Mr Mahama could have had his briefings wrong or his intelligence was suspect or he was misled.

Agreement

Further explaining the Banda situation, he said the REGSEC met with the executive of the NDC and the NPP as part of efforts to restore peace and harmony to the area, with the last meeting culminating in an agreement being signed between the parties.

“The agreement, signed by the NPP candidates, Mr Joe Dankwa, and the NDC’s candidate, Mr Ibrahim Ahmed, on July 30, this year, stated that the parties must bring peace before, during and after the registration exercise,” he said.

Per the agreement, Mr Nitiwul said the parties made five recommendations including the deployment of security to ensure peace in the area, no candidate nor their supporters bussing people to polling centres, no individual should challenge the nationality and age of anybody who is going through registration except through their agents, and nobody should use physical violence.

“Therefore, for any political party, whether the NDC or the NPP, to attempt to bus people as we saw the NDC General Secretary do in that unfortunate video was uncalled for and should be condemned because there is an existing agreement not to bus anybody.

“For him as the General Secretary of the largest opposition party to be seen to be bussing people, I condemn him with all the might that I have,” he said.

Reaction

In his reaction, Mr Agalga said the video that circulated on social media showing soldiers deployed to Banda was a clear attempt by the government to deter Ghanaians from going out to register.

“The real intent or motive of the government in the deployment of our armed forces in border areas of our country was actually to prevent citizens from getting their names onto the voters register,” he said.

GAF position

Meanwhile, the GAF has refuted claims that its men were preventing a particular ethnic group from participating in the voters registration exercise at Banda.

A statement signed by Director of Public Relations of the GAF, Colonel Eric Aggrey-Quashie, said the presence of the security agencies was to support the REGSEC to broker an agreement in ensuring a peaceful conduct of the registration exercise.