Counsel for the Electoral Commission (EC) in the case in which the validity of John Peter Amewu’s election as Member of Parliament (MP) for the Hohoe Constituency is being challenged in the Ho High Court has described the events leading to the disenfranchisement of the people of Santrokofi, Akpafu, Lolobi, and Likpe (SALL) as “regrettable”.
Responding to the submissions of Tsatsu Tsikata, the lawyer for the petitioners, Sekyi-Boampong, argued that in the case in which Professor Margaret Kweku and four other petitioners are seeking declaratory reliefs from the court and, as such, there had to be a full trial before the court could grant the reliefs, including an annulment of Mr. Amewu’s election as an MP.
Sekyi-Boampong’s comment appears to be the closest the EC, headed by Jean Mensa, has come to accepting responsibility that something went wrong in the SALL Traditional Area, leading to the people being denied their right to vote as well as their right to have representation in the 8th Parliament.
Mr. Tsikata had last Friday told the Ho High Court that the denial of the SALL Traditional Areas of their right to vote for a parliamentary candidate was a blight on the parliamentary election in the Hohoe Constituency.
He contended that the continued denial of the people in the SALL traditional areas of representation in the 8th Parliament of the 4th Republic undermines Ghana’s democracy, and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by the petitioners.
Mr. Tsikata told the court, presided over by Justice Owoahene Acheampong, that the Electoral Commission (EC) had made admissions which justified those reliefs being granted.
Among the admissions of the EC referred to by Mr. Tsikata was that the SALL Traditional Areas were not a district at the time Constitutional Instrument 112 of 2019, which created the Oti Region, came into effect.
Referring to that Constitutional Instrument, Mr Tsikata, emphasized that, by the plain meaning of the words in the Instrument, the Oti Region “shall comprise the districts specified in the Schedule to this instrument.”
Whatever is not a district in the schedule is, therefore, not included in the Oti Region.
The “SALL Traditional Areas”, as admitted by the EC, were not a district, but were part of the Hohoe Municipality, as also admitted by the Commission.
Mr Tsikata pointed out that it was also admitted by the EC in their answer to the Election Petition that the SALL Traditional Areas, were included in the Hohoe Constituency under Constitutional Instrument 95.
Further claims by the Commission that C.I. 95 had been amended by C.I. 128 in July 2020 and that another C. I. 119 had “realigned the District, Electoral Areas and units”, involved “unlawful usurpation of power” by the Commission since the Commission, Mr Tsikata insisted, has no power to create a district nor to change boundaries of districts.
The EC, had used those instruments to disenfranchise voters in the SALL Traditional Areas and to create the “mess that the nation is faced with”.
In Constitutional Instrument 128, according to Mr Tsikata, the EC had bundled together the SALL Traditional Areas, which were within the Hohoe Municipality in the Volta Region, with districts in the Oti Region contrary to Article 47(2) of the Constitution which provides that “No constituency shall fall within more than one region”.
That instrument was, therefore, unconstitutional.
Furthermore, Article 47(6) of the Constitution made it clear that C.I. 119 and C.I. 128 could only come into effect upon the dissolution of the 7th Parliament which was on 6th January 2021.
The instruments were, therefore, not in operation on 7th December 2020 when the election was held. C.I. 95 was still in operation and the court, Mr. Tsikata maintained, had no option but to set aside the election results in the Hohoe constituency and have an election held with the participation of voters in the SALL Traditional Areas.
But Mr Sekyi-Boampong referred to several decisions of the Supreme Court of Ghana and an English case which, according to him, had decided that the reliefs the petitioners were seeking could not be granted without the parties being given a hearing.
The application brought by Mr Tsikata for the Petitioners was, therefore, in his view, not properly before the court.
Mr Sekyi-Boampong further argued that the admissions made by the EC were in particular reference to the Hohoe Municipality Establishment and had little to do with the results of the election that was conducted by the Commission on December 7, 2020 for the Hohoe Constituency.
According to him, “per C.I. 112, which created the Oti Region, the SALL Areas, are captured under the Oti Region.”
He stated that what happened in the SALL Traditional Areas was regrettable.
He, however, insisted that the admissions made by the Electoral Commission did not “go to the root of the validity of the election.”
He urged the court to dismiss the application and give directions to the parties for a trial to enable the court to obtain a full account of what had transpired in respect of the SALL Traditional Areas.
After the submissions, Justice Owoahene Acheampong adjourned the case to December 21, 2023, for his ruling.
Interestingly, Mr. Sekyi-Boampong suggested that the court could adjourn till January 2024, Mr Tsikata quickly countered that the attitude of the EC lawyer showed the lack of urgency with which the EC treated the SALL issue.
Mr Tsikata said there was a need to deal with the matter urgently. Justice Acheampong maintained the December 21, 2023 for the ruling.
Peter Amewu, the 2nd Respondent to the Election Petition, was again not in court nor was he represented by any lawyer.
At the start of the proceedings, Justice Acheampong sought confirmation from the records of the court whether Mr Amewu had been served notice of the hearing through his secretary at the Ministry of Railways as ordered by the court on November 2, 2023.
Justice Acheampong, after checks from the Registrar, read out a report which indicated that Mr Amewu was indeed served.