A petition has been submitted to the Commission of Inquiry overseeing the processes for the creation of new regions, requesting that the hearings in the Volta Region be expanded beyond the northern part of the region to cover areas in the south as well.
The lawyer for the seven petitioners, Albert Quashigah, told Citi News that his clients had decided to petition the Commission because they felt that persons who lived in the southern part of the region were being discriminated against in the process.
According to them, the decision to select venues for the hearings which were predominantly based in the north, constitutes an exclusion of the people in the south, despite the fact that a regional split would affect the entire region.
“About five venues have been chosen. My clients became alarmed because if you look at the distribution of the venues for the hearing, you would find that they are basically concentrated in the northern part of the Volta Region,” he said.
“These public hearings are for the Volta Region. The region is a mass expansion of land from the south to the north, and the eventual creation of the region would affect the entire region. So if you want to do a public hearing on a matter as sensitive as this, you don’t create the impression that only those who live in the areas involved in the split will be considered.”
‘Most appropriate venues’
In their response to the concerns raised, the Commission said given the fact that the petition had been received for the creation of a new region from the northern part of the Volta Region, it was imperative that it visits the parts earmarked for the split to determine whether the action is viable.
In a letter to the petitioners signed by its Secretary, Jacob Saah, the Commission said the venues chosen for the hearings were the “most appropriate” to ensure the ultimate success of its work in the region.
“The Commission is of the considered opinion that the venues for the public hearings, published in the Daily Graphic of January 8, 2018, are the most appropriate if the objectives of the mission to the Volta Region are to be achieved. The Commission’s visit has been necessitated by a petition from the Chiefs and people of the northern part of the Volta Region demanding the creation of a new region,” the letter said.
“The facts and issues raised in the petition can only be verified in that part of the country. The Commission therefore has a duty to visit the northern part of the Volta Region to observe things at first hand, and interact with its people directly. The Commission is aware that the Chiefs and people of other parts of the Volta Region also desire for their opinions to be heard on the matter at hand.”
The Commission however said measures had been put in place to allow persons from other parts of the country, including people residing in the southern part of the Volta Region, to offer their input to the Commission’s work.
“The Commission is aware that the Chiefs and people of the other parts of the Volta Region also desire for their opinions to be heard on the matter at hand. It is for this reason that arrangements have been made to ensure that the chiefs and people of other parts of the Volta Region and indeed all Ghanaians can also make their views known to the Commission.”
Albert Quashigah stated that, his clients considered the response from the Commission unsatisfactory as it did not address the concerns they had raised in their petition.
According to him, limiting their work to just the areas earmarked for the split could skew the Commission’s final report which might not present a “true reflection” of the conditions that exist in the region.
“The Constitution does not say that when the petitions come you must go to those areas alone, especially when you are creating new regions out of an existing administrative region in this country,” he said.
“The concern is that, because the Commission must actually go ahead on the places where a referendum will take place, you do not prejudge these issues by taking a position which does not give a true reflection of the situation in the Volta Region.”
When asked whether his clients will seek an injunction to stop the Commission’s hearings in the region, Mr. Quashigah said: “we have a lot of options on the table.”