The professor wrote in a social media post, that the Electoral Commission of Ghana has no discretion to decide what documents it accepts as proof of citizenship.
Kweku Azar also stated categorically that he disagrees with the supreme court when it says that a person’s birth certificate does not provide evidence of citizenship.
Read the full statement from Kweku Azar below:
The Court seems to have taken the position that voters acquire no rights when they register to vote. Accordingly, the EC may compile a new register as it deems fit, no matter how costly, inconvenient, or burdensome it is to voters.
I struggle to accept that proposition. On this reasoning, it is only a question of time that we are asked to register again because the register that is currently being compiled did not ask for our Certificate of Sound Mind.
I do not agree with the Court that the issue is one of whether the EC can exercise its power pursuant to Article 297(b). Rather, the issue is once that power has been exercised and registration cards have been issued, whether the voters acquire “something” that is protected by law and that cannot be taken away without due process?
I also have some difficulties with the Court’s stand that it is within the discretion of the EC to decide what to accept as proof of identification and citizenship. The government creates various institutions charged with doing specific things. As I see it, the EC has no discretion in deciding what government documents it will accept and not accept.
The ECOWAS card, Passports, Birth Certificates, Military Cards, etc. should be accepted to the extent that they provide evidence on age, citizenship, and state of mind. Confusion will ensue if these institutions can pick and choose which government documents they accept and do not accept.
Of course, the Court is correct that birth certificates do not provide evidence of identification. Nobody offers a birth certificate as proof of identification. A birth certificate only has some facts and do not include any identifiers, like pictures, fingerprints, etc.
But I strongly disagree with the Court that birth certificates do not provide evidence of citizenship. They do! That is why parents make oath at the birth registry and state their nationality or citizenship (depending on when the person is born). From the parents’ nationality, one can then infer the child’s citizenship. In our case, one parent being a Ghanaian makes the child also a Ghanaian.
Fortunately, the birth certificate/citizenship statement was mere obiter that did not form part of the Court’s holding, which focused on identification.
So, in my opinion, the law continues to recognize birth certificates as proof of citizenship. Thus, candidates for elections, ECOWAS card, Passport, etc. can use it for that purpose.
The reason the Court says the EC does not have to accept the birth certificate has more to do with the Court’s thinking on discretion rather than the Court’s thinking on citizenship. I do, of course, disagree with the Court on the exercise of discretion as previously indicated.
Notwithstanding the Court’s “interesting” obiter dictum that birth certificates provide no evidence of citizenship, there is little doubt that they provide compelling evidence of date of birth.
Having inspected my brother, Professor H Kwasi Prempeh’s, birth certificate, and having satisfied myself that he was born on this day, I want to use this opportunity to wish him a happy birthday and the best year ever.