The Attorney General’s Department, is making a strong case for the National Identification Authority (NIA) to be allowed to carry on with the Ghana Card registration in the Eastern region, despite a directive by President Akufo-Addo, limiting public gatherings over the spread of the deadly Coronavirus cases which has risen to 52 and killed two persons.
Godfred Yeboah Dame in filing a defence to respond to a suit filed against the NIA by two individuals to stop the registration exercise said, although the president gave directives for the suspension of public gatherings, the NIA’s work falls under the category of businesses that were permitted to continue to operate, but with adequate precautionary measures.
“…much as the President directed that all public gatherings should be suspended, in the same speech Sunday, 15th March, 2020, the President expressly preserved the continued operation of businesses and other workplaces subject to the observance of prescribed social distancing between patrons and staff.”
“…the effect of the President’s directive is that, manufacturing, industrial and service workplaces, including the civil service and service in other organs of government, local market, supermarket, shopping mall, restaurant, security services and other essential services continue to function, but subject to the strict practice of prescribed social distancing,” he noted in said in the defence.
He further argued that their work is part of public services and as such the ban declared by the president last Sunday, does not include the Ghana card registration and the plaintiffs on that basis, have no case against the authority.
“That the National Identification Authority (NIA) is a statutory authority, part of the public services of Government and performing services which were not proscribed or outlawed by the letter and spirit of the directives of the President dated Sunday, 15th March, 2020.”
Godfred Dame, said the aspect of the President’s directives that concerns it, is in the area of ensuring social distancing and personal hygiene protocols which it has been adhering to.
The Attorney-General, had insisted, that despite a coronavirus outbreak, the registration exercise for the Ghana card, must go on because the identity card will be crucial to vote in December.
This position was contained in its response to a lawsuit demanding the NIA suspend its controversial registration exercise in the Eastern region.
Deputy Attorney’s statement of the government’s defence, said the NIA had instituted strict hygienic measures meant to ensure that the exercise does not become an infection ground for the deadly covid-19.
He accused the plaintiffs -Emmanuel Akumatey and Kevor Mark-Oliver- who are at the Human Rights Court of a “deliberate misconstruction” of the president’s directive, banning public gatherings in the wake of the infections.
The deputy A-G said the president’s directives, issued March 15, 2020, excluded certain classes of businesses and other workplaces.
He prayed the court to dismiss the injunction application, describing it as “grossly unmeritorious and unwarranted.”
The Attorney-General, also asked the court for an early hearing because the NIA exercise is an urgent national objective.
The court is expected to hear the case in two weeks. But Godfred Dame, wants a quick showdown Thursday.
Emmanuel Akumatey and Kevor Mark-Oliver’s case against the NIA, is the second such case against the registration exercise in in the period of COVID-19. It was filed by one lawyer Nii Kpakpo.
In the first case, an Accra High Court presided over by Justice Daniel Mensah, on Monday placed an interim injunction on the NIA’s mass registration exercise in the Eastern region.
Lawyers for the applicants, Justice Srem-Sai Esq., Godwin Dzah Esq and Francis Kwarteng Arthur Esq, prayed the court that the NIA, must be restrained as their continued defiance of the President’s orders, will deprive the applicants of their derivative rights if they (the applicants) decide to heed the president’s call and stay away from the crowd, which is normally associated with this registration exercise, whilst at the same time the respondents defy the same directives.
The court said, it had taken judicial notice of the president’s directive banning all social gatherings and the health risk the registration poses.
The decision of the court was as a result of an interim injunction application brought against the NIA by 29 individuals who reside in the Eastern region.
The applicants led by Prince Tabi (1st Applicant) argued that the registration by NIA, posed some serious health risks for registrants of which the court had to intervene because the Authority is acting ‘unreasonably and unfairly’.
They also made an order for cost and demanded any other remedies that the honourable Court may deem fit under the circumstances.
In their writ, they declared that:
“An order of injunction, restraining the Respondent, its agents, workmen and women, assigns howsoever named or described from continuing to carry out its mass registration exercise in the Eastern Region until such a time that (i) a vaccine is found for the deadly COVID-19 disease; (ii) the Ghana Health Service would declare that the COVID-19 disease is no longer an epidemic in Ghana; or (iii) the World Health Organization would declare that the COVID-19 disease is no longer an epidemic in Ghana, whichever happens last.”
On its part, however, the NIA told the court that it had to continue the registration exercise in other not to disenfranchise people who reside in the Eastern Region due to the Legislative Instrument presented to Parliament by the Electoral Commission which seeks to make the Ghana card and passport, the two major means of getting onto the new voters’ register.
But following the interlocutory injunction application filed at the High Court restraining the NIA from continuing with the registration exercise, the Authority subsequently suspendedthe Ghana Card registration exercise in the Eastern Region.
The exercise was suspended “pending the final determination of the application,” the NIA noted in a statement.
Before the suspension, the NIA insisted that its decision to carry on with the Ghana Card registration exercise in the Eastern Region was not in violation of the directives concerning public gatherings.
This was despite reports indicating that citizens looking to register for the card were massing at some registration centres in contravention of expert advice for curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), for example, said the continuation of the registration was a breach of international and regional human rights instruments.
CHRAJ in a statement also said the NIA’s actions were a disregard of the existing World Health Organization (WHO) precautionary measures aimed at containing and combating the novel coronavirus.
The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) also complained that the continuation of the exercise defeated the precautionary measures declared by the state to combat the pandemic.