President Akufo-Addo slams Minority for stance on national ID
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has taken a swipe at the Minority in Parliament for what he describes as their attempts to thwart the implementation of the national identification (ID) registration law after they have supported the promulgation of the legislation by Parliament.
He wondered why National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs) who had supported the exclusion of voters ID cards, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards, among others, as qualification for national ID registration in Parliament would turn round and, with the support of their party leaders, bastardise the implementation of the same law and even issue threats of civil war.
He was speaking 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 last Saturday.
President Akufo-Addo quoted copiously from the Parliamentary Hansard comments by some of the NDC MPs who supported the exclusion of NHIS and voters identity cards, baptismal certificates, among others, on the floor of the House.
With the Presidential Charter, the Ashesi University is now a fully independent tertiary institution and can award its own degrees.
Hitherto, it was affiliated to the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) and those institutions awarded degrees to Ashesi graduates.
The NDC is vehemently opposed to the implementation of the law in its current form, arguing that the exclusion of voters ID cards from the list of documents to be used for the registration will prohibit many people.
As part of their protest, the MPs refused to register when the National Identification Authority (NIA) went to Parliament to capture MPs’ details and provide them with national IDs.
The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, has been quoted as saying that if the NIA continued the registration without the use of voters ID cards, Ghana would experience a civil war like what befell Cote d’Ivoire.
Reacting to threats of a civil war by the opposition, the President described their comments as “base forms of self-serving demagoguery” and expressed the confidence that the good sense of the Ghanaian people and the vigilance of the law enforcement agencies would, together, be “sufficient to defeat any ill-conceived, destructive adventure for achieving narrow, parochial, partisan ends”.
He said those canvassing strongly that those in possession of voters ID cards should qualify to be issued national ID cards must bear in mind that that view was never canvassed during the parliamentary consideration of the matter.
“I do not think I say anything contentious if I state here that it is well known that many non-Ghanaians are in possession of voters cards that they obtained by offering NHIS cards as proof of identity,” he said.
The President said it was generally accepted that the terms of the NHIS made it attractive to people of neighbouring countries and that many had signed on to benefit from the free health care provided under the scheme.
He explained that it was for that reason 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.
“It should not be in the long-term interest of anybody that we enlist as Ghanaians people whose loyalty to our nation is limited to access to our free healthcare system. I certainly have no interest and no intention to prevent genuine citizens from being issued with identity cards,” he said.
However, he indicated strongly that his oath of office as the President of Ghana was unequivocal and that he owed it to the nation to uphold the law and protect national institutions from being undermined.
President Akufo-Addo said there was no better credible, basic, documentary requirement for establishing nationality or citizenship than a birth certificate or a passport.
He assured those without any of the two that the law had provided an appropriate and acceptable mechanism to verify their claims before they would be registered and presented with the Ghana cards.
He said there were four pages of information that the NIA officials would require from a prospective registrant that would help determine if that person qualified to get a card.
He also said there was a legal definition of who was a Ghanaian and urged that people abandon giving politics a bad name and support the exercise to proceed rapidly to a successful end.
President Akufo-Addo said incontrovertible evidence showed that the NDC supported the National Identity Register (Amendment) Bill to be passed into its current form and cited the comments by the Ranking Member on the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Select Committee in Parliament, Mr Inusah Fuseini, who was the designated leader of the Minority on that committee.
He quoted Mr Fuseini as saying: “There is no controversy in the amendment. It seeks to expand the field of information that would be required and bring the information up to date with modern trends.”
The President said the statement by Mr Fuseini was supported by the NDC MP for Banda, Mr Ahmed Ibrahim.
He quoted Mr Banda as saying: “Mr Speaker, from the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, registration and census were done. Therefore, it is very pathetic that, as a country, we do not know who a Ghanaian is… Mr Speaker, if there is something as a country that Ghanaians should come together and support, I believe this bill is one of them.”
He said the NDC MP for Ellembele, Mr Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, the Minister for Petroleum under the Mahama government, in his contribution, stated: “The amendment bill is long overdue and very critical for our country. The issue of who a Ghanaian is is very critical in this country, especially because of the issues we face.”
President Akufo-Addo said apart from the comments that led the House to unanimously pass the amendment, the Report of the committee stated, among others: “The committee also noted that the bill seeks to do away with the use of voters identity cards, drivers licences and baptismal certificates as proof of citizenship. It, however, maintains the use of birth certificates and passports.
“It further introduces residence permits and other documents evidencing acquired citizenship. Officials of the NIA informed the committee that the changes are consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court in Abu Ramadan v Attorney-General delivered in May 2016.”
The President said he was hopeful that after several attempts to provide all citizens with national identity cards had failed, the present move would have received the enthusiastic support of all.
Unfortunately, he said, there seemed to be a deliberate full-scale manufactured storm to slow down the process.
“If we, as a people, had been conducting our affairs properly throughout the years, there should not be any argument in determining who is a Ghanaian. But we have not,” he added.
The President of the Ashesi University, Dr Patrick Awuah, recounted the support of his parents in realising his dream and urged the students not to forget people who assisted them along the way.
He urged them to pursue their visions and always take bold initiatives and implement them and not to be disturbed by the hitches of life.