By Kweku Armstrong
There is now ample evidence supported by conflicting statements by Ghana’s Electoral Commission and the National Identification Authority, NIA, of a grand scheme to rig the 2020 elections.
Verifiable evidence monitored from various activities, disclaimers and statements by the two bodies over the past one year clearly shows how the agenda, seeking to change the citizenship laws of the country, was calculated to quietly deny hundreds of thousands of potential voters the right to exercise their franchise.
As far back as June 2018, the Minority in Parliament, suspicious of government’s moves flagged the bill placed before Parliament on how the NIA was going to roll out registration for the Ghana Card.
They raised serious concerns about decision to limit eligibility criteria to only passports and birth certificates. It argued that the bill if passed will deny over 20million (about 70 percent ) Ghanaians the Ghana Card
The NDC, which was vehemently opposed insisted that the exclusion of voters ID cards from the list of documents to be used for the registration will prohibit many people.
On June 25th, President Akufo Addo waded into the argument in his address at the 14th commencement ceremony at the Ashesi University and the presentation of a Presidential Charter to the school at Berekuso in the Eastern Region. He insisting that, some people from neighbouring countries had acquired the voters ID card with the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS card.
He explained that the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that the NHIS card should not be used as a form of identification to register for a voters ID card.
President Akufo Addo condemned NDC MP’s decision to boycott the approval process because of the exclusion of Voters’ ID card insisting the better credible, basic, documentary requirement for establishing nationality or citizenship was a birth certificate or a passport.
Again the NDC made another critical observation. The Birth and Deaths registry in the Volta region was targeted. The Minority flagged the transfer of two top officials of the births and deaths registry in the Volta region, Mr. Richard Womega, Head of the Department, and his deputy Ms. Peace Agbenyo, with a further directive for the suspension of registrations in the region.
MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa who addressed a news conference said: “clearly, the scheme was ostensibly to purge the system and pave the way for their strategy to manipulate the process.”
He added………….“We have long believed that the reckless intransigence on the part of the Government and the belligerent open defence of same by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is targeted primarily at the Volta Region. Sadly, our worse fears have now been confirmed,”
He made reference to claims by the NPP in 2015, then in opposition, led by the Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia who told a news conference that the register was bloated with names of Togolese.
After technical hitches during its piloting of the project, the NIA, through a cunning strategy decided to embark on a targeted approach. From Parliament to the Security agencies, the former Presidents, and strategic institutions, it began to roll out the registration exercise.
SECRETE NIA REGISTRATIONS/ARRESTS
Mass registration for the issuance of the Ghana Card officially begun in the Greater Accra region on Monday, April29, 2019. This according to the NIA was to be done in phases and the region was zoned into two (Accra West and Accra East), because of the limitation of equipment.
But sooner that many anticipated, NDC’s vigilance exposed government, the ruling party, NPP and the NIA.
Barely a week after the registration exercise, May 8, 2019 to be precise addressed a news conference on the arrest of a number of NPP officials caught red-handed with NIA equipment secretly registering people in the middle of the night and at obscure locations including Churches.
Deputy NDC General Secretary, Peter Otukunor addressed the media about the massive fraud and irregularities made reference to separate incidents at Akweteyman, Abbosey Okay and Mataheko.
In one instance, a group, which placed surveillance on the NIA officials busted them in the private residence near the St Theresa Catholic Church at Awudome, around 7pm,
Graphic Online which was at the scene with other journalists observed that the laptop had been turned on and the software for registering, labeled on a page as “Identity Management System” had been launched and the page for capturing demographic data had been opened.
Another major arrest of illegal registration was made in a Church building at Awoshie. One of the busted officers, identified as Derick Kingsford confessed during interrogation as scores who stormed the Victory Bible Church building in the Ga West District of the Greater Accra Region.
Again on May 29, 2019, three known NPP activists were busted. The culprits, Daniel Holali Dagah, then an aspiring Assembly Member for the area, Saliu who is also the NPP Secretary for the Old Fadama Electoral Area and one other were arrested upon an alarm raised by Deputy National Organizer of the Opposition NDC, Chief Hamilton Biney Nixon, who was at the scene.
The trio who were caught by a group of young men led by the NDC branch Chairman for Old Fadama, Wusama Yakubu, were filling the NIA registration and Oath forms for some NPP members at a private residence around 8:30 pm.
During interrogation by the Police, one of the culprits, Daniel Dagah mentiond a certain Malik who he described as the NIA Monitoring Officer for the Ashiedu Keteke Sub-metro released the documents to them.
Several other arrests were subsequently made in other regions. In Ashanti for example, there several of such reports and arrests. The Police this year, confirmed the arrest of five persons between 3rd and 6th January 2020 by public spirited Ghanaians led by the NDC.
In the wake of the arrests from the onset of the Ghana Card registration exercise, the National Identification Authority issues separate statements announcing dismissals, and commitment to ensure prosecution of the officials involved.
In January this year, some aggrieved citizens who provided “incriminating evidence” against the five persons, assisted in identifying the said culprits.
The NIA subsequently issued a statement announcing the dismissal of Kenneth Sarfo Boateng, Commissioner for Oaths; Ransford Omane Osei, Mobile Registration Workstation Operator; De-graft Osei Mensah, Supervising Registration Officer; Emmanuel Edusei Poku, District Registration Supervisor and Kwabena Dan, a resident of Nyinampong.
Executive Secretary of the NIA, Professor Ken Attafuah in reaction commended the public spirited Ghanaians for the arrest and said management is abhorred by the egregious violation of applicable internal rules and regulations”.
NIA DECEPTIVE ACTIONS
It is instructive to note that none of those arrested has been prosecuted. The NIA has not pursued those cases. Again, matters arising from the suspended NIA registration exercise and false impressions in previous statements is now confirming earlier suspicions.
As far back as May 2019, when persons were being arrested for illegally registering peopleband Ghanaians were complaining about difficulty in going through the process, the NIA continued to give assurances.
Executive Secretary Professor Attafuah is on record speaking through journalists that, they have limited materials and there was no need to rush.
He explained …. “We knew we did not have enough machines. We needed 2,500 but we started with 1,050. …We cannot wait till we get al. We appreciate the frustration and we ask the public to bear with us. We are in a hurry to complete the project so in due course, there will be a mopping up exercise”
Again in an attempt to fend off criticisms for conniving the NIA said authorized the registration at some Churches within the Accra West Zone.
A statement signed by Head of Corporate Affairs of NIA, ACI Francis Palmdeti said the Churches offered their premises as registration centres and in return requested that the NIA considers dedicating one Sunday to register their members.
EC/NIA NOW CAUGHT PANTS DOWN
The National Identification Authority in its response to the NDC allegations said …“NIA is not part of the election management architecture in Ghana. There is no conspiracy between NIA and EC to rig the 2020 elections.
But critics are questioning how the NPP knew in advance, how and for what reason NIA equipment were released to governing party officials arrested from the onset of the mass Ghana Card registration exercise and NIA’s failure/reluctance to pursue prosecution of suspects, strange allocation of more than enough equipment to facilitate registration in the Ashanti and Eastern regions, both NPP strong holds.
Data from NIA indicates that 5.1 million (5,159,569) cards have been issued to registrants. 6 million did not have primary documents required for registration. Member of NDC’s communications team, Yayra Koku quoting from leaked NIA data also accessed by policy Think Tank, ASEPA, other groups show that NIA’s exercise in both NPP and NDC strongholds to prove that, the EC and the NIA planed to disenfranchise people in the strongholds of the NDC.
He said the “NIA registered 2.4m people in Ashanti Region and issued 1.7m cards out with a backlog of over 400,000.
“In the Eastern Region, they have registered 1.2m people and issued over 600,000 cards out with a backlog of over 140,000, with more names to be added when registration resumes after the COVID-19 restrictions.
“In the Upper East, NIA registered over 220,000 people, issued over 49,000 cards out and have a backlog of only 45,000.
In the Volta Region, NIA registered over 560,000 people and issued over 420,000 with a backlog of 3,700.
“Upper West, they registered 147,000 people and issued over 26,000 with a backlog of 2,700+.
Interestingly in the Greater Accra region, which has the highest population in Ghana, NIA registered 1.9m and has issued 1.2m with a backlog 6,045.
EC ZONES IN
From the onset, when the NDC flagged the decision to exclude the voters register in the NIA exercise, the Electoral Commission insisted, its agenda had nothing to do with the Ghana Card. Aside, verbal assurances, Director of Electoral Services, Dr. Serebour Quaicoe is on record to have told the public that EC cannot rely on the NIA data base for its new voter register.
Dr Quaicoe who has been at the forefront of the EC/government agenda, was emphatic that the NIA has no timelines in its data compilation exercise making it impossible for the EC to resort to their system since they have timelines to their work. He was responding to a recommendation by the Progressive Peoples Party in January this year as the debate over register for the 2020 elections begun.
Again, EC’s own presentation to political party leaders including former Presidents, CSOs and other stakeholders make it clear that EC will not discard the voters register and the existing data. The slide in the presentation asked a specific question…”Is the EC discarding all preious data’?
EC’s own response was …”No!!!. The EC will use the existing data of votes during the registration of into the new voters register. Voters would not be required to go through the same process as new voters.”
But government shot itself in the foot.
Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, in a statement to an Accra High Court on March 24, challenging an injunction against NIA’s ongoing registrations in the Eastern region in the wake of COVID -19 restrictions said the Ghana card will be needed in the upcoming voter registration exercise and denying people in NPP’s stronghold will result in “irremediable harm which can never be occasioned by the respondents, Mark Oliver Kevor and Emmanuel Okrah who sought the Court injunction.
It was later revealed that, government, the NIA and the EC had been operating together when EC tried to smuggle a Constitutional Instrument, C.I, which, if passed, shall make the Ghana Card and the Ghanaian passport the only legal identification documents for registering people in the new biometric voters register.
Interestingly, the rushed document was twice withdrawn because of grievous errors.
The third (corrected) Constitutional Instrument was surreptitiously returned and quietly laid on the 29th day of March, 2020. The Committee on Subsidiary Legislations is yet to convene a meeting to deliberate on the CI intended to denationalize hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians.
UNANSWERED CRITICAL QUESTIONS
On March 3rd, 2020, the Inter-Party Resistance Against the New Voter Register addressed a news conference. NDC General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia who spoke on their behalf made sosme startling revelations.
That on 26th February 2020, sent another email to GenKey Africa, suppliers of the current BVDs to find out whether or not the 72,000 BVD equipment they supplied to Ghana’s Electoral Commission are obsolete; and whether or not they can be upgraded; and at what cost if Yes
Contrary to the claims by the EC, the suppliers, GenKey Africa in their e-mailed response said 72,000 BVDs they supplied Ghana are not obsolete. Again the company explained that the BVDs the EC used for the 2019 District Level Elections worked perfectly. It further stated that the BVDs are upgradeable and that, they have presented a proposal to the EC for the upgrade of same at a cost far cheaper than the cost of replacing the current equipment with new ones
Till date EC has not responded.
Again the Manufacturers of biometric machines have also exposed EC Chair, Jean Mensah, her deputy Dr Bossman Asare, Director of Elections, Dr Serebuor Quaicoe, Director of Operations, Samuel Tettey and Head of Public Affairs, Sylvia Annor who have actively defending the EC agenda.
HSB Identification BV of Holland, the manufacturers of the current BVR equipment maintain that the current BVRs are not obsolete. it also explained that aalthough the notebooks (computer operating system and software) of the current BVRs needs to be upgraded, components like the fingerprint scanners were very robust and fit for use, contrary to EC’s arguments.
Again, the enrollment software could easily be upgraded with facial recognition, a feature which has been incorporated in their new software release.
The cost of upgrading the current BVR equipment with new functionalities will be far cheaper than replacing them with new equipment.
And HSB Identifications BV V is willing to assist the EC carry out these upgrades upon request
Similarly, the EC has also not responded to Policy Think Tank, IMANI Africa which also raised critical questions about cost, procurement breaches, related excuses by EC
Vice President, Bright Simons who addressed a news conference in the same month (March) the questionable figures that the EC has released as the cost for the new system raise concerns about the true intentions of the election management body.