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Ghana is scheduled to undertake a referendum on December 27, 2018 for the creation of new regions against the backdrop of controversial circumstances that have characterized the whole exercise. The issues that have made the exercise controversial relate to the manner in which the government is implementing the process. The Constitution of Ghana – under its chapter 2 clause 5(i) “Creation of Territories in Ghana”- has laid down elaborate procedures for the creation of new regions, alteration of the boundaries of an existing region, and the merger of two or more or more regions which have to be strictly complied with by the various stakeholders involved in the process in order to validly create a new region.

The key stakeholders in this regard are the President, The Council of State, The Commission of Inquiry, The Electoral Commission and registered voters in prospective and existing regions. The President’s role relates to receiving petitions for the creation of new regions and as stated in clause 5(2) satisfy himself that there is a “substantial demand” for the creation of a new region or alteration of the boundaries of an existing region. The Council of State plays an advisory role to the President in terms of advising the President if need be to set up a Commission of Inquiry to implement the process with the mandate to also determine if there is a substantial demand for creation of new regions.

The constitution therefore imposes a burden on the President to ensure that there is a substantial demand for the creation of new regions before he sets up the Commission of Inquiry. Once the President appoints a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into and make recommendations on factors involved in the process of creation of new regions or alteration of the boundaries of existing regions, the constitution further imposes a burden on the Commission to establish that there is a “substantial demand” for the creation of the new region or alteration of the boundaries of existing regions – Clause 5(4). The “substantial demand” requirement as stated in the constitution is thus very fundamental to the valid and legitimate creation of new regions under Ghana’s 1992 constitution, and has to be strictly complied with by both the President and the Commission of Inquiry prior to referring the issue to a referendum.

There has been recent agitations especially in the Volta Region against the creation of a new region in the region which has called into question whether the requirement of “substantial demand” for the creation of new regions has been satisfied as required in the constitution. The process for creation of new regions in Ghana so far has been limited erroneously by the President and the Commission of Inquiry to engaging primarily residents of the prospective new regions and not majority residents of existing regions as required by the constitution. It is obvious that in a region such as the Volta Region with an estimated population of Two (2) Million, the clear measure of satisfying the constitution’s “substantial demand” requirement or test for creation of a new region out of the existing Volta Region, is for the President and the Commission of Inquiry to ensure that majority of residents in the whole region are engaged in the process and are in support of the exercise. That has not been the case so far.

What has transpired has been a deliberate policy by the President and the Commission of Inquiry to restrict almost all their engagements and activities to residents of the prospective new region contrary to the requirements of the constitution. Indeed in the situation of the creation of a new region through the alteration of the boundaries of an existing region, as stated in clause 5 (1)b) and 5(4) the burden is on the President and the Commission of enquiry to ensure a substantial demand in the whole existing region in support of the exercise. There is no denying the fact that the petitioners for the creation of the proposed Oti Region are seeking to alter the boundaries of the existing Volta Region. (5(1)b) Therefore the onus is on the President and the Commission of Inquiry to prove to the whole world that they have engaged residents of the whole region if they are to satisfy the constitutional requirement for substantial demand in support of the creation of the proposed Oti Region. The conduct of the President and the Commission of Inquiry to date in restricting their engagements and activities largely to residents of the proposed Oti Region thus clearly violates the constitution. Again the Electoral Commission’s decision to limit the referendum to registered voters of the proposed Oti region further perpetuates the violation of the constitution and lays the foundation for the whole exercise to be challenged as unconstitutional in future.

The processes that have so far been employed by the government in the current exercise of creation of new regions thus fall short of the strict requirements of the 1992 constitution for creating new region and points to the possibility of future legal challenges to the legitimacy of the new regions once created under such controversial circumstances. Clearly the President’s conduct in the whole exercise to date has been to engage largely the 2.3% residents of the proposed Oti Region as opposed to ensuring that the larger majority of residents of the whole region have been engaged in the process in order to satisfy the substantial demand requirement of the constitution. Again clearly the Commission of Inquiry’s activities to date has been restricted largely to the 2.3% residents of the Oti Region as opposed to the 86% of residents of the Volta region as required by the constitution. In this regard, one can cite the fact that public forums and hearings organized by the Commission to establish substantial demand in support of the creation of the proposed Oti Region have been restricted to territories within the proposed region.

In conclusion therefore any regions created without convincing proof of satisfaction of the constitution’s requirement of substantial demand in support of the creation of a new region across the whole region violates the constitution and can in future be challenged and nullified as unconstitutional. Let’s remember that the creation of any new region involves the alteration of the boundaries of an existing region and therefore restricting activities leading to the creation of the new region to territory of the proposed region including the referenda violates the constitution.It is obvious therefore that substantial demand for creation of the proposed Oti Region within territories of the Oti Region does not constitute substantial demand in support of the creation of the proposed region or alteration of the boundaries of the existing region across the whole region as required by the constitution.

A rush to create new regions contrary to requirements of the constitution is thus a sure recipe for disputes and future challenges to the validity of the new regions and a waste of scarce national resources. The 1992 constitution clearly requires the President and the Commission of Inquiry to ensure that there is substantial demand in support of creation of new regions in the existing regions prior to proceeding to conduct referendums to create the new regions. The obvious rationale for this requirement in the constitution is to forestall disputes and conflicts arising from the creation of any new regions and to ensure broad support for the exercise. The constitution’s elaborate and cumbersome procedures for creation of new regions are obviously designed to prevent haphazard and rampant creation of new regions and its attendant explosive problems that it can potentially generate.

God Bless our Homeland Ghana.

Report by: Mensah Dekportor (Germany)
Email: [email protected]

2 COMMENTS

  1. COMMON SENSE: if you are not greedy, a cheat, a glutton, selfish, a mean person etc, why would it be a problem for you to share what belongs to you and another person into TWO(2) so that each of you will his/her own portion with absolute control?

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