The Supreme Court of Ghana’s recent decision that ordered the Electoral Commission to provide it with a list of registered voters who secured their registration with National Health Insurance Cards (NHIS cards) is a decision which is controversial to say the least.
It is controversial primarily because it is based on its earlier decision which ordered the Electoral Commission to delete from its register the names of voters who were registered with NHIS cards as their main source of identification. Indeed the controversy that the Court’s earlier decision generated was very well manifested in the unusual conduct of Justice Doste - one of its Judges - who made a public pronouncement that sought to clarify what the court’s decision on the issue was all about. The fact that Justice Doste had to create further controversy by making public pronouncements on what the Supreme Court’s decision on the NHIS card issue was all about is a clear indication that the Court’s earlier decision was ambiguous and controversial in all respects.
That the Supreme Court’s first decision directing the Electoral Commission to delete NHIS cards registered voters from its record was legally flawed and controversial is thus an understatement. This is because the Court sought to render null and void voter registrations that were conducted legally with NHIS cards. Such registrations were legal then because they were conducted by the Electoral Commission under an Act of Parliament which may have been flawed in some respect but legal because it was the law governing voter registration at the time.
What law formed the basis of the courts decision to order the Electoral Commission to delete names of legally registered NHIS voters from its register? Was the court’s order not contrary to natural justice in seeking to delete names of valid registered voters from the Electroral Commission’s voters register? Was the NHIS card the only means of identification for prospective voters prior to 2012 election? What of voters who were registered by the EC through other means of identification such as drivers license which in Ghana can be secured by foreigners as well? Is the Supreme Court not unduly pandering to the whims of political actors who have made a fetish of NHIS cards at the expense of Ghana’s stable democracy? Is the Supreme Court oblivious of the fact that when the NPP and Dr. Bawumia made a lot of noise about NHIS cards being used by foreigners for voter registration, and were asked to present evidence to support their claims against the Electoral Commission, they were able to provide only 10% of their evidence which was found to be fabricated and unconvincing?
Is the Supreme Court oblivious of the fact that the Electoral Commission’s integrity is paramount and pivotal to Ghana’s elections and democracy? Should it not be the primary duty of the court to rather protect the integrity and status of the Electoral Commission rather than engage in reckless public pronouncements that seek to attack the integrity of the Electoral Commission? By issuing retrospective orders to the Electoral Commission is the Supreme Court not unnecessarily fueling the fires of political chaos in God’s peaceful country for the sake of pandering to the parochial whims of political actors? What prevents another group of persons from taking the Electoral Commission to court to seek a deletion from the voters register of the names of registrants who utilized drivers licenses, since nationality is not a precondition for issuing drivers license in Ghana? What negative and damming evidence did the petitioners present to the Supreme Court on the NHIS card registration matter to justify the Supreme Court’s decision to take a firm position that NHIS cards registrants should be deleted from the register? These and many other questions are relevant and should be considered by the Court going forward.
The Supreme Court created a lot of controversy and confusion in its first decision that ordered the Electoral Commission to delete NHIS card registrants from its register, especially since its decision was retrospective and not backed by any overwhelming evidence that the Electoral Commission had acted in contravention of any law when it registered the NHIS card holders. It still has the opportunity to correct its defective decision and also preserve and protect the integrity of the Electoral Commission, by refraining from insisting on the Electoral Commission arbitrarily deleting the names of NHIS card registrants on its electoral roll.
Any insistence by the Supreme Court that the Electoral Commission engage in arbitrary deletion of names from its register could however open the Pandora box of further court actions against the Electoral Commission, and could lead to acts of political destabilization which would feed into the agenda of those that have constantly and unjustifiably used the Electoral Commission as their excuse for electoral failures. Ghana’s Electoral Commission has served our democracy very well in the 4th Republic, and have in the process established a high reputation world wide. The Supreme Court of Ghana should therefore at all times seek to preserve this high integrity of the Electoral Commission and refrain from issuing decisions and orders that are controversial and rather stoke the fires of political instability in Ghana. Decisions that aggressively push for deletion of names of validly registered voters from the register are hugely controversial, reckless and destabilizing and should therefore be avoided at all cost.The practical effect of any decision of the Supreme Court especially on sensitive matters related to electoral issues in Ghana should thus weigh heavily on everyone including the judges themselves as citizens of Ghana. All angles to the issue must of necessity be therefore scrutinized and examined prior to decision making by the court.
The Electoral Commission should be allowed to demonstrate to the Supreme Court the dangers and challenges in any arbitrary deletion exercise assuming it is even able to present a list as directed by the court. The possibility of other court actions arising from deleted voters and its possible destabilization of the whole electoral process should not be ignored by the court. The Supreme Court should also as a necessity impose a high burden on the petitioners to demonstrate to it the adverse consequences to them and their affiliates of the Electoral Commission’s inability to perform a wholesale and arbitrary deletion of names from its register.
In this regard a speculative claim that NHIS registrants may be foreigners should not be enough justification for issuing orders and decisions to the Electoral Commission that has the potential to destabilize Ghana’s electoral process and political stability.
Any decision and orders of the Supreme Court henceforth on this sensitive issue of electoral register should be practical and not calculated to undermine the integrity of the Electoral Commission. It should be a decision that places the national interest above any parochial interest of a group that have to date failed to conclusively establish that the non deletion of NHIS card registrants from the register would adversely affect them during the elections. The Electoral Commission should therefore be allowed to carry out the deletion exercise according to its procedures for conducting such exercises with no interference from the Supreme Court.
God Bless our Homeland Ghana
Mensah Dekportor (Germany)
Email: [email protected]