Haruna Iddrisu and Gabby Otchere-Darko
The resolution of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to boycott the ongoing unique national identification exercise for the Ghana Card has sparked heated debate in Parliament.
Currently, the members of the NDC are insisting that until the National Identification Authority (NIA) allows Ghanaians to use their Voters’ Identity Cards as part of the registration processes to acquire the Ghana Card, they are not going to take part in the exercise which commenced last week.
The NIA said applicants would have to produce a birth certificate, passport or produce two referees to vouch for them to obtain the Ghana Card.
Case of Mischief
In what looks like a clear case of mischief, the NDC Minority in Parliament issued a statement, through its leader Haruna Iddrisu, to condemn the government for allowing the NIA to restrict the identification requirements for registration to passports and birth certificates alone, although the authority had said emphatically that those without any of the requirements could still produce two referees to vouch for them.
“The Minority Caucus in Parliament has taken note of an announcement that the National Identification Authority (NIA) will be carrying out a registration exercise in Parliament tomorrow, Monday, 11th June, 2018.
“We find this development very surprising for a number of reasons,” the statement said.
“First, it was our understanding that the National Identification Authority would engage Members of Parliament in a meeting to clarify a number of issues relating to the roll out of the exercise. This meeting was duly advertised in the Business Statement at least twice only to be postponed again this time indefinitely when the Business Statement was read by the Majority Chief Whip, Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh last Friday, 8th June, 2018. We still have no indication when this crucial meeting will be held.”
“Second, significant questions remain about the cost, scope and legality of the project, as well as registration requirements.”
The NDC Minority said “with regards to the cost of the project, the leadership of the NIA has been less than candid with the people of Ghana. Whereas documents available to us show that the total project cost is $ 1.4 billion, which can be broken down into $1,221,476,123 actual cost and tax exemption of $176 million, the Chief Executive Officer of the NIA, Prof Ken Attafuah, is on record as saying it will cost $293 million.”
They further said they were aware that despite the provision of support by the Akufo-Addo administration in respect of revenue projections, the project had not been brought to Parliament for approval in accordance with the law.
23 Million Ghanaians
As a result, the NDC said emphatically that “we remain opposed to the restriction of identification requirements for registration to passports and birth certificates. Our analysis shows that this will prevent about 23 million Ghanaians from obtaining the Ghana Card and deprive them of any benefit thereof.”
They also said “we also have grave concerns about potential breaches of procurement laws and processes,” adding “we are unable to participate in the registration exercise slated for tomorrow at Parliament House.”
Prior to the NDC’s statement on Sunday, former President John Dramani Mahama lambasted the government for trying to skew the Ghana Card process during the ‘Unity Walk’ in Aflao in the Volta Region.
He described the NIA registration requirement as ‘illogical’ and said “this is a deliberate attempt to de-nationalise some of our people and we shall not accept it. We will use every legitimate instrument that is possible under a democracy to ensure that every Ghanaian is able to register.”
“If you go to one of the villages in my constituency (Bole) and let me use an example, Hodiyiri, it’s a small community in Bole Bamboi, perhaps, nobody in Hodiyiri has a birth certificate or passport so for the 300 or 400 people in Hodiyiri with no birth certificates or passports to prove that they are Ghanaians, how are you going to register those people in Hodiyiri?”
“And so I don’t know, it’s illogical and shortsighted and a very strong symbol of incompetence that you cannot think far and see that on the basis of what you have prescribed as a criteria for qualification of the national ID card, you are going to disenfranchise more than 20 million of our citizens and that is unacceptable, and so the NDC is going to do everything to fight for the best interest of the majority of the people to make sure they are going to be identified to be given cards so that they can be identified as bonafide Ghanaians.”
DAILY GUIDE understands that when the NIA engaged the NDC during its sensitization exercise, the opposition party appeared not to be concerned with the cost of the project but rather the restriction of the identification requirements for registration.
Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, a leading member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), responded to the issues being raised by the NDC and exposed the opposition party over the raging issues.
He posted on social media platform Facebook that “John Mahama and the Minority are speaking against the National ID registration. Anokwa! For eight years they spent money every year on the NIA but were not able to issue a single ID for any Ghanaian.”
“Yep! Talk about waste and incompetence. Now, they say they are boycotting the registration exercise, and they are doing so with a silly lie that only Ghanaians with a birth certificate or passport are allowed to register so it will de-nationalise Ghanaians,” he fired, adding “that is not true! If you don’t have a passport or a birth certificate you can still go to the registration point with a family member (a Ghanaian) to vouch for you and you will be free to register.”
“Even if you were so unlucky that at the time of your birth every single member of your clan were at the village for the celebration and all of them (bar none) were hit by a huge asteroid and died instantly, leaving you alone, you can still show up with two Ghanaians to vouch for you to register and pick up your ID card free.”
“So, let’s ask them: who are the NDC actually fighting for – certainly not Ghanaians? Please, while at it, ask the NDC to refund every pesewa they spent in eight years on the NIA without producing one ID card for any Ghanaian. That should shut them up – I hope.”
Yesterday in Parliament, it turned out that the Executive Secretary of the NIA, Prof Ken Attafuah, would brief parliament today on the activities of the authority instead of the purported registration of MPs.
The First Deputy Majority Chief Whip and New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Kpandai, Matthew Nyindam, who made this known to DAILY GUIDE in parliament, said NIA officials would brief the committee today as planned in the business statement of parliament for the week.
He said the minority’s intention to boycott the registration exercise is not only premature but ill-advised.
Minority Press Confab
Meanwhile, the Minority in Parliament is expected to hold a press conference today to express concerns over the registration exercise.
MP for Ningo/Pampram, Samuel Nettey George, who was in parliament yesterday, said that the Minister of Monitoring and Evaluation, who superintends over the activities of NIA, dodged Parliament after he was invited on several occasions to come and brief Parliament on the exercise.
By William Yaw Owusu & Thomas Fosu Jnr