Creation Of New Regions: Only Voters In Proposed Regions To Vote In Referendum

The Supreme Court has dismissed a suit challenging the planned referendum only in areas earmarked for the creation of six new regions slated for December 27, 2018.

In a unanimous decision yesterday, a seven-member panel of the court held that the plaintiffs did not present a genuine case for constitutional interpretation and, therefore, had failed to properly invoke the original interpretative jurisdiction of the court.

“The court’s jurisdiction had not been properly invoked and, accordingly, the case is dismissed,’’ it held.

The judgement was read by Professor Justice Nii Ashie Kotey, while Justice Sophia Adinyera presided over the panel.

Other members of the panel were Justices Jones Dotse, Anin Yeboah, Samuel K. Marful-Sau, Agnes M. Dodzie and Nene A. Amegatcher.

Creation of new regions

On August 15, 2017, the Council of State advised President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to appoint a Commission of Enquiry to look into the need to create six regions and make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation of the new regions.

The Justice S. A. Brobbey Commission, which was established pursuant to Article 5 of the 1992 Constitution and Constitutional Instrument (CI) 105, commenced work on November 21, 2017.

On June 27, 2018, it presented its report to President Akufo-Addo and recommended the creation of six new administrative regions, namely, Oti, Ahafo, Bono East, Western North, Savannah and North East.

The commission recommended to the President that the referendum be limited to the proposed new regions.

Consequently, the EC set December 27, 2018 for the referendum.

Referendum challenge

The three plaintiffs — Mayor Agbleze, Destiny Awlimey and Jean Claude Koku Amenyaoglo — however, challenged the format of the referendum and filed their case at the Supreme Court on September 12, 2018.

Joined to the suit as defendants were the Attorney-General (A-G) and the Electoral Commission.

The plaintiffs were seeking an interpretation of Article 5 of the 1992 Constitution, which deals with the creation of new administrative regions or the merger of two or more regions.

They had argued that it was unconstitutional for the referendum to be limited to only the proposed new regions.

Rather, they said the constitutional way was to hold the referendum in the entire four existing regions (Western, Volta, Brong Ahafo and Northern) that were to be altered to give birth to the six new regions.

It was also their case that all registered voters in the four existing regions must vote and not just those in the proposed six new regions.

A Deputy A-G, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, disputed the arguments of the plaintiffs and contended that they had not raised any issue that required a constitutional interpretation by the apex court.

No ambiguity

The court, in its judgement, upheld the Deputy A-G’s argument, saying Article 5 of the 1992 Constitution was “clear, precise and unambiguous’’ and, therefore, did not require any constitutional interpretation from the court.

It quoted almost all the provisions of Article 5 in the judgement and said Clause 4 clearly mandated the Commission of Enquiry to recommend the areas where the referendum would be held, while the EC was also mandated under Clause 5 to prescribe the manner in which the referendum would be held.

“Plaintiffs are inviting the court to give a new interpretation of Article 5 when the words are clear and unambiguous. No question of interpretation arises and, therefore, the plaintiffs have failed to properly invoke the original jurisdiction of the court,” it said.

 It held that the Commission of Enquiry, the President and the EC had acted in a manner that was in line with the clear and unambiguous provisions of Article 5 of the 1992 Constitution.

Did not understand

The court further held that the plaintiffs had misunderstood a referendum for the creation of new regions and a referendum for the merger of two or more regions.

It said the framers of the 1992 Constitution drew a clear distinction between a referendum for the merger of two or more regions and a referendum for the creation of new regions.

The apex court said Article 5 Clause 7 spelt out that more than 60 percent of registered voters in the regions where the proposed merger would take place must vote, while 80 percent of the voters must vote in favour for the merger to happen.

On the other hand, it said, Article 5 Clause 6 stipulated that 50 percent of the people entitled to vote in a referendum for the creation of new regions must vote, while 80 percent of the voters must approve the creation of the new region.