Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, Counsel for Professor Margaret Kweku and four other Petitioners contesting the validity of the election of Hon Peter Amewu as MP for Hohoe constituency, today told a High Court in Ho, presided over by Justice Owoahene Acheampong, that the denial of voters in the SALL Traditional Areas of the right to vote for a Parliamentary candidate affected 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.
According to Mr. Tsikata the Electoral Commission had made admissions which justified those reliefs being granted.
Among the admissions of the Electoral Commission referred to by Mr. Tsikata was an admission 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 Electoral Commission, 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 Electoral Commission in their Answer to the Election Petition that the SALL Traditional Areas were included in the Hohoe Constituency under a Constitutional Instrument 95.
The further claims of 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 the Constitutional Instrument 128, according to Mr. Tsikata, the Electoral Commission 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 that 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.
Responding to the submissions of Mr. Tsikata, Counsel for the Electoral Commission, Mr. Sekyi-Boampong, argued that the Petitioners were seeking declaratory reliefs from the court and, as such, there had to be a full trial before the court could grant such reliefs.
He referred to a number of 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 Counsel for the Petitioners was, therefore, in his view, not properly before the court. Mr. Sekyi-Boampong further argued that the admissions made by the Electoral Commission 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 Electoral Commission on 7th December 2020 for the Hohoe Constituency.
According to him, “per C.I. 112, which created 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 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 21st December 2023 for his ruling. Mr. Sekyi-Boampong suggested that the court could adjourn till January 2024, whereupon Mr. Tsikata stated that this showed the urgency with which the Electoral Commission treated the SALL issue.
Mr. Tsikata said there was a need to deal with the matter urgently. Justice Acheampong maintained the 21st December 2023 for the ruling.
Hon 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 that Hon Amewu had been served notice of the hearing through his secretary at the Ministry of Railways as ordered by the court on 2nd November 2023.
Justice Acheampong, after checks from the Registrar, read out a report which indicated that Hon Amewu was served.