The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has listed numerous challenges it claim characterised the ongoing voter registration exercise.
At a Press Conference in Accra today, the NDC has accused the EC of undertaking the exercise without following the Coronavirus (Covid-19) safety protocols even though the Commission assured the nation before starting the registration exercise.
“It remains mind-boggling how in the face of a deadly pandemic where Ghana’s case count keeps skyrocketing by the day, President Akufo Addo and the Jean Mensah led Electoral Commission will recklessly expose Ghanaians to the risk of COVID-19 infections. It is sad that even some EC officials did not have adequate protective equipment.
"Unfortunately, the EC appears to be blaming the general public for non-adherence to the safety protocols in its public statements on the ongoing registration process”, NDC’s Director of Elections Elvis Afriyie Ankrah said at the Press Conference today.
Per the party's observation, he revealed that they observed that the EC officials exhibited poor knowledge and appreciation about the processes.
Other concerns Mr Afriyie Ankrah noted include the non-availability of power to charge equipment, faulty and slow equipment in some parts of the country, as well as general insecurity at some registration centers.
The NDC also alleges the issue of NPP thugs attacking some NDC supports at some of the registratikn centers.
Find the full speech read by Elvis Afriyie Ankrah at the press conference below:
STATEMENT BY THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS ON THE ONGOING VOTER REGISTRATION EXERCISE AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY HON. ELVIS AFRIYIE ANKRAH DIRECTOR OF ELECTIONS AT THE NDC HEADQUARTERS ON 7TH July, 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen from the Media, I welcome you to this all important press conference to share with you the NDC’s observations from the ongoing voter registration exercise.
The National Democratic Congress has been monitoring the ongoing voter registration exercise that commenced on Tuesday June 30, 2020 and we wish to bring our preliminary observations to the attention of the Electoral Commission and the general public and other stakeholders.
These challenges if not addressed portend far reaching implications for our electoral process and our democracy.
- Complete Disregard for COVID-19 Protocols at Registration Centres
Ghanaians will recall that one of the concerns the National Democratic Congress, Civil Society Organizations, medical practitioners and health workers, lecturers and ordinary Ghanaians raised about the compilation of a new voter register was the risk of exposing Ghanaians to the further spread of the novel coronavirus. As we all observed, the Supreme Court strangely backed the Electoral Commission and Government to embark on the compilation of new voter register.
Our prediction was right. The Electoral Commission upon all the assurances that they will ensure the observance of covid-19 safety protocols has lost total control over the process. From the beginning of the exercise, we have witnessed COMPLETE disregard for covid-19 safety protocols. While we observed that the wearing of face masks is being strictly enforced upon entry at the registration centre, social distancing and washing of hands are not being observed.
It remains mind boggling how in the face of a deadly pandemic where Ghana’s case count keeps skyrocketing by the day, President Akufo Addo and the Jean Mensah led Electoral Commission will recklessly expose Ghanaians to the risk of covid-19 infections. It is sad that even some EC officials did not have adequate protective equipment.
Unfortunately, the EC appears to be blaming the general public for non-adherence to the safety protocols in its public statements on the ongoing registration process.
After assuring the population that it is his responsibility to protect us, President Akufo Addo is now saying that we must take personal responsibility for our safety. At a time that President Akufo Addo has suspended Cabinet meetings for his personal safety for fear of contracting the virus, he sees nothing wrong with Ghanaians massing up at various centres to register. Note that Cabinet is made up of just about 19 ministers. Even that the president has suspended its meetings.
Clearly government has lost control over the spread of the virus, our hospitals are getting full, contact tracing has been abandoned, and there is shortage of reagents and test kits.
We wish to state unequivocally that President Akufo Addo and the Jean Mensa led Electoral Commission MUST take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for the further spread of the corona virus through the ongoing mass registration exercise.
We wish to use this opportunity appeal to our supporters and the general public to proceed with the registration with caution observing the protocols.
- Poor public education on registration centres and schedules
The apparent confusion that has characterized the registration at various centres can be attributed to a combination of factors. We have always maintained that the EC was not ready for the compilation of a new register but they remained adamant and intransigent. The EC has adopted this piecemeal approach to the voter registration simply because they do not have enough machines for the registration. We are reliably informed that the EC deployed only about 4000 registration equipment to various centres across the country. It is simple logic that if you order equipment in the midst of a deadly pandemic where most factories have shut down or are not operating at their optimal capacity, this is what to expect. [apegyineg1] We warned the EC severally about the potential of not having the full complement of their equipment in good time for the mass registration exercise to no avail. Today the chickens have come home to roost. We are reliably informed, just as we advised them, that the EC had to refurbish the old devices, which they vowed were not good enough, for this exercise. [apegyineg2] In some registration centres for instance, we have observed that some registrants are recording DUPLICATES. This suggests that their data is already in the system. This lends credence to the fact that old machines have been deployed for the exercise instead of the new machines the EC budgeted for.
The effect of the fewer machines and registration is that there is panic reaction through massing up of prospective registrants who do not want to be disenfranchised but are rather in a hurry to register and kick Akufo Addo out come December 7, 2020.
Secondly, the EC has been inconsistent in following its own schedules for the voter registration. The schedules that were published to the general public have been changed on the ground resulting in a lot of confusion which is adversely affecting the registration exercise. The arbitrary change in the schedule by EC officials in the Upper East Region for instance has resulted in a court order by the Bolgatanga high court restraining the Regional Director of the EC from changing the earlier advertised date and schedule for registration in the region.
Again, the schedule so published by the EC is so complicated that many prospective registrants do not understand it. Public education on the schedules is non-existent, this has resulted in people massing up at various registration centres in other constituencies instead of waiting for their turn.
Again, unlike in the past where the EC provides directional signs to give visibility to registration centres across the country, this is completely absent this time around.
There is also inadequate education on the registration itself. Many Ghanaians think that they already have voter ID cards hence there is no need to register. We do not blame them for this because we maintain that the decision to compile a new voter register itself is at best imprudent.
We are therefore calling on the Electoral Commission to make use of local radio stations, the Information vans from the Information Services Department, the National Commission for Civic Education (which has largely been ill-tooled by the Akufo Addo administration) and Community information centres to scale up public education on the cluster registration schedules to address the above situation. We believe that when people are better informed about when registration will be done at their polling stations, they will remain calm for their turn.
- Poor Knowledge and appreciation of EC officials about the processes
One of the most disturbing observations we have made is the poor knowledge and understanding being displayed by some registration officials about the registration process. First of all, the EC has publicly advertised through a press release dated 26th June 2020 that the Registration form 1A is available at their website for registrants to download and complete before visiting the polling station. This we thought would quicken the registration process. To our utmost dismay, registration officers at some polling stations have rather caused the arrest of prospective registrants for bringing the completed forms to register.
Again, as a measure to ensure transparency throughout the registration process, registration officials are required to issue a print out from the registration equipment at the beginning and the end of each day and give copies to party agents present. Unfortunately, this is not being done at some polling stations. Some of the officers claimed that they had not been informed about that procedure and this raises questions about the quality of training given to the officials.
From our monitoring, we observed that at some polling stations in the Ashanti Region, even security agents were assisting in the completion of registration forms to make the process faster. However, in Adaklu in the Volta Region, where 2 registration assistants were assisting in the completion of the registration forms, NPP executives reported the incident to the Volta Regional Minister and the Regional Director of the Electoral Commission who instructed the District Officer to stop the second registration assistant from assisting with the process. This development is strange and backward as it will further slowdown the registration process leading to longer queues and thereby increasing the risk of covid-19 infections.
Another weird development we observed was that some EC officials asked registrants to queue along party lines at a registration centre. This was the case in the Afadzato South Constituency. EC officials were seen directing registrants to queue along party lines, NDC and NPP queues. We find that most regrettable.
We do also know that by law registered voters can challenge persons they suspect to be ineligible. It is therefore strange that some NDC supporters who challenged the eligibility of some registrants were arrested by the police.
- Non availability of power to charge equipment
It has also come to our attention that the registration centres on the Island Communities in Afram Plains North and South such as Abotsure, Anwiasu, Zion, Kedekope, Zikpo, Fripo Shieto, Tsetsekpo in the Eastern Region have no electricity hence registration officials do not have sources of power or generators to charge the equipment. In Akateng in the Upper Manya Krobo, the machine went off at around 3pm on the second day due to unavailability of power to charge the machine. This is seriously affecting the registration exercise in the areas above. The EC must therefore take immediate steps to address these challenges.
- Faulty and slow Equipment in Some Parts of the Country
We have observed that while the equipment deployed to Ashanti Region are super-efficient resulting in higher number of registrations, the machines deployed to other parts of the country are generally slow and less efficient with some breaking down frequently. At Sokpoe in the Afram Plains North for instance, the machine did not work well the whole day on Wednesday which was the second day of the registration. As at 5pm on that day, only 5 people were registered. There was a similar incident at Ayensuano and Asene Manso-Akroso registration centres where the equipment couldn’t work on 2nd July. We also noticed that some technicians are unable to fix the broken down equipment resulting in long delays. This has affected the registration exercise resulting in the registration of fewer people.
In the Atiwa West Constituency, the start of day report at the District Office on 3rd July recorded 2 instead of 29 as the total number of persons registered the previous day. (It appears something is missing)
We are therefore calling on the EC to ensure timely repair of broken down equipment to facilitate the registration process.
- Registration Anomalies
We have also observed some anomalies with the registration process. Apart from the errors such as wrong dates of birth and other details of registrants, we have also noticed that some voter ID numbers were not appearing on the cards. This was the case in the Afadzato South Constituency. As noted already, it is here that EC officials were seen directing registrants to queue along party lines, NDC and NPP queues.
- Overlapping Registration Centres
We have observed also that some of the registration centres overlap across neighbouring constituencies. Asawase and Ledzokuku constituencies are two cases in point.
- Registration at Electoral Commission’s District Offices
The Electoral Commission is required by law to gazette all registration centres. We are therefore surprised about the announcement of the use of District Offices for Registration for the aged and persons with disability. While we acknowledge the good intention of the Electoral Commission towards the aged and persons with disabilities, we think that the EC must operate within the remits of the law to avoid any suspicion. We are reliably informed that the EC’s registration at their district offices is a VIP registration arrangement for NPP officials who having exposed Ghanaians to covid-19 infections through mass registration are looking for a safer way to register such that they will not mingle with the general population to increase their risk of contracting covid-19.
Political parties ought to be pre-informed about such arrangements to enable them plan and send agents to the District Offices. We however see practical challenges with this arrangement; we wonder how the EC is going to place them in their respective polling stations in their communities.
- Mobile Registration
The intended mobile registration has similar issues as the registration in the EC Offices. This arrangement is not governed by any law and we wonder how people will be placed in their respective polling stations. The EC should give us credible explanations.
- Registration in Schools
Contrary to the president’s directive that there should be no registration in schools, the EC has announced registration in Senior High Schools. The EC earlier announced that there will be no vote transfer this year but has suddenly backtracked that they will transfer votes for students who register. This is doubtful because during the 2019 limited registration, students who registered while in school were assured that their votes would be transferred to their respective polling stations to enable them exercise their franchise but this never happened.
- Reports of pre-existing data in the system of some registrants
For emphasis sake we want to amplify the point that in some registration centres, registrants are recording DUPLICATES. This suggests that their data is already in the system. This lends credence to the fact that old machines have been deployed for the exercise instead of the new machines the EC budgeted for. We are concerned because such innocent people could be disenfranchised and prosecuted for the offense of multiple registration. We are calling on the EC to explain this phenomenon and take steps to rectify same.
- General Insecurity at Some Registration Centres
One of the most disturbing developments which is so pervasive is the constant attacks on NDC agents. As reported widely in the print and electronic media, our agent by name Ebenezer Tetteh sustained severe injuries on the head after being hit with a concrete block at the registration centre at Kasoa by an NPP member. There were also gunshots at the same polling station. Our youth organizer in Kasoa was also attacked early in the morning of the same day by thugs in military uniforms who were on a rampage intimidating prospective registrants to prevent them from registering. This raises serious security concerns since it has the potential of preventing people from coming out to register in their numbers. There were also reported gunshots at the Kotobabi registration centre where 6 men on motorbikes discharged weapons.
We call on the police to thoroughly investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. A known member of NPP’s Invincible Forces by name Labaran who lives in Akweteyman who was also the driver of the former MP for Okaikoi North Constituency Hon Ebenezer Sackey was spotted in a Ghana Armed Forces Uniform creating chaos.
In many parts of the country, the military are all over the place in the company of MMDCEs, MPs or NPP Parliamentary Candidates.
In other registration centres, known NPP members are going round attacking people who challenge non-residents who had been bussed to register in those constituencies. This was a major source of confusion at Aketebor registration centre in the Upper Manya Krobo Constituency. The thugs transported in KIA trucks were in the company of NPP executives.
In Ejura Sekyedumase, the MCE, Hon Salisu Bamba gave out a vehicle belonging to the District Assembly to thugs to go round registration centres in the company of military officers to intimidate registrants. Masked men dressed in Azugu Ayawaso West Wougon by election thugs style were also spotted around Karakri Brobbey registration centre in Ablekuma West Constituency.
In Dorma West Constituency, a member of invincible forces dressed in a military uniform was arrested by the police. He confessed that the NPP Parliamentary candidate for Dorma West had engaged him and his team.
Similar incidents are occurring all over the country. In Suame in the Ashanti Region, persons suspected to be members of the NPP militia groups are preventing suspected NDC members from registering by threatening them and causing mayhem while police condone these acts and in some cases assist the militias in intimidating prospective registrants.
In new Edubiase, there are reported cases of NPP supporters hurling insults at Ewes and people of northern descent and asking them to go and register in their home towns. This development is very backward and a major setback to our national unity agenda. Every Ghanaian is entitled to live in any part of Ghana. It is therefore awkward that same will be happening in 21st Century Ghana. We wish to encourage the NCCE Director in New Edubiase to scale up civic education of the perpetrators in this regard.
There are gory images of an NDC supporters being assaulted by the forces of the NPP. See some photos attached below.
At Old Fadama Police Station Centre, this is what an NPP thug known as Bullet did to a registrant.
At North Swalaba, this gentleman is attacked by NPP thungs: Nii Okai Amass, Kortor, One Face and Akpor
Lady attacked by NPP thug known as Koodi
At Ho West, in Honuta, the military are searching people’s homes.
As intimated earlier, it is quite common to see registrants being intimidated by men in uniform. We don’t believe that such people are proper security officials. Their behaviour suggest that these are thugs impersonating our security agencies. We call on the security agencies to thoroughly investigate these acts off lawlessness and take action.
Ladies and gentlemen, you can see from the above concerns that all is not well with the registration exercise contrary to what the EC wants Ghanaians to believe through their media engagements. This is a very important exercise that will enable Ghanaians exercise their constitutional right to vote in the upcoming elections.
We are therefore calling on the Jean Mensa led EC to take steps to rectify all the anomalies that have characterized the registration exercise to make the process easier and safe to Ghanaians.