Ongoing limited voter registration: EC chair’s action unconstitutional — Ablakwa
The Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu Constituency in the Volta Region, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has said the action by the Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson, Jean Mensa, to limit the ongoing voter registration exercise to its district offices was unconstitutional, illogical, autocratic and amounted to voter suppression.
"The EC should amend its ways. As a Member of Parliament, I know we approved the EC's budget and money for equipment so it cannot claim to be handicapped," Mr Ablakwa said.
The North Tongu National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP urged civil society organizations, the Clergy and all those who matter to let their voices be heard on the matter.
Mr Ablakwa warned the EC that although it might succeed in going ahead with the exercise despite a legal suit by the party and four other political parties to halt the exercise, it should not be excited.
"Because we have a plan B and that's under wraps for now," he warned.
Mr Ablakwa was speaking to journalists at Battor last Thursday after initiating a "movement plan" to assist first-time voters in his area to register and decide who governs them in the next election.
The plan includes bussing the youth, mainly fresh graduates from the senior high schools to the district electoral office at Battor to be registered.
The MP is hoping to register at least 3,000 youths as well as assist others who have never registered before.
The communities to benefit from the support include Torgome, Fodzoku wards, Battor Township, Aveyime, Agbetikpo, Dedukope and Mape ward.
Mr Ablakwa's gesture followed threats by the constituents not to register if the EC did not bring voting centers close to them, especially those at Juapong and Torgome, who have made several appeals to the EC to move the voting center to their polling stations due to the cost involved.
On average, an individual may have to travel between 70 and 90 kilometers from different locations to the center.
For instance, transportation costs from Juapong to the Volta River banks cost GH¢23, and commuters pay about GH¢10 each to use the canoe to cross the river to Battor and then join a motorbike to the center.
The situation becomes even dire when each person will have to travel with two guarantors to Battor to register.
Against the backdrop of regular network challenges, the MP and his team have put in place measures to house the registrants (to sleepover) and continue with the exercise.
During the tour with the MP last Thursday to fully appreciate the challenge, the District Electoral Officer, Paulina Rolland Agbo, confirmed the network challenge but said it was being resolved.
Unlike the national elections where a person could vote even after 5 p.m. once they were in the queue, it was not applicable in this situation, thus, making some sleep overnight to continue the exercise the next day.
During the tour with journalists to have a first-time experience, including crossing the Volta River on a canoe, Mr Ablakwa said he considered the action by the EC chairperson and her team as disrespectful to his constituents.
He said it was obvious that they didn't travel to such communities to appreciate the challenges they face.
"Ridge, where the EC office is, is not Ghana. Accra is not Ghana. This is the real Ghana. Ghana includes all these people in the smaller villages whose contributions and taxes into the national kitty are used to cater for them (EC officials) and pay their salaries," he said.
He could not fathom how the people who donated their lands and agreed to be relocated for the Kpong and Akosombo dams to be built to help in the industrialization process of Ghana could be treated this way. Mr Ablakwa cited the Torgome and Fodzoku communities, whose sacrifices gave birth to the Kpong dam as well as the people of Atimpoku - the Akosombo dam.
The MP expressed concerns that his investment in the youth to register could affect other interventions he has rolled out, which include providing a one-month free accommodation and free laptops to newly posted nurses to the constituency.
North Tongu is one of the eighteen districts in Volta Region.
It was formerly part of the then larger and original North Tongu district created on March 10, 1989, with Adidome as its capital town, which was created from the former Tongu Council until the western part of the district was split off to create the new North Tongu District on June 28, 2012, with Battor Dugame as its capital.