General News of Thursday, 29 November 2018
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision yesterday, backed the Justice Allan Brobbey Commission that has recommended the creation of six new regions in the country.
The seven-member panel, presided over by Justice Sophia Adeniyira, dismissed the suit challenging the constitutionally of government’s decision to create six new regions.
In its unanimous verdict read by Justice Professor Nii Ashie Kotey, the Supreme Court said it agreed with lawyer for the Electoral Commission (EC), Justin Amenuvor and the Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame that Article 5(4) of the 1992 Constitution is clear in meaning, no ambiguity whatsoever about it and therefore there is nothing that arises for interpretation.
To this end, the court ruled that the Justice Brobbey Commission’s recommendation stands and the plaintiffs’ action dismissed.
The panel that decided the case comprises Justices Sophia Adeniyira, Jones Dotse, Anin Yeboah, Samuel Marful Sau, Agnes Dordzie (Mrs), Professor Nii Ashie Kotey and Nene Amegatcher.
The 19-member Commission, after holding nationwide consultations, urged the government to create new regions to be known as the Oti from Volta Region; Ahafo, Brong East from Brong Ahafo; Western North from the Western Region; North East and Savannah Regions from the Northern Region.
The Electoral Commission (EC) has set December 27, 2018 for the referendum on the creation of the six regions.
The Supreme Court, per the ruling, has given clearance to the EC to hold its referendum in selected areas earmarked for the creation of new regions.
The plaintiffs had challenged the decision of the EC to only allow residents in the new regions to vote in the referendum.
According to the Justices of the Supreme Court, there is no genuine or real issue for interpretation, as the Constitution states unambiguously the discretionary power given to the Electoral Commission.
The justices also said the Commission of Enquiry did not err in suggesting how the referendum should be held as they do not hold the final authority to decide.
The plaintiffs, all from the Volta Region, Mayor Agebleze, Destiny Awlimey and Jean-Claude Amenyaoglo, were seeking interpretation of Article 5(4) of the 1992 Constitution, which states “Where a commission of inquiry appointed under Clause (2) and (3) of this Article finds that there is the need and a substantial demand for the creation, alteration or merger referred to in either of those clauses, it shall recommend to the President that a referendum be held, specifying the issues to be determined by the referendum and the places where the referendum should be held.”
It was their argument that the recommendation of the Justice Brobbey Commission that the upcoming referendum should be carried out in the areas affected by the proposed regions and not the entire regions affected by the possible division was unconstitutional.
They further asked for clarity on who is qualified to vote in the referendum regarding the creation of the new regions, specifically the Oti Region.
At the last court sitting, Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, representing the state; lawyer for the Electoral Commission, Justin Amenuvor and Albert Quashigah, lawyer for the plaintiffs; all told the Supreme Court that they would rely entirely on the addresses they had filed in court.
In the written address filed by lawyers of the EC, they argued that “what the plaintiffs in the case are asking the Supreme Court to do is to twist, alter and insert words into clear, precise and unambiguous provisions of the Constitution so as to substitute their preferred recommendation for that of a constitutionally mandated Commission that has exercised its powers and discretion within the confines of the law.”
“We submit that this is an unnecessary invitation to this court; it is not supported by our constitutional provisions or the jurisprudence of this court and we invite Your Lordships to decline this invitation. My Lords, we submit that on this point alone, this action ought to be dismissed in line and with costs,” the EC said.
The Deputy Attorney General, in his argument in the written address, submitted that “the plaintiffs, through the invocation of this court’s original jurisdiction, subtly seek a review of how the Article 5 commission set up by the President, as well as the EC, discharged the duties cast on it by the Constitution.”
“We submit that the duties of an Article 5 commission and the EC under Article 5 of the Constitution are not reviewable by any person or authority, save in the case of a violation of the law or Constitution. Where the Constitution has placed a duty on a person or authority, that duty must be performed.”
“The performance of that duty is not questionable in the absence of an excess of the powers conferred by the Constitution or other forms of illegality committed by that person or authority. Plaintiffs have woefully failed to show any such unconstitutionality or illegality and therefore the instant action ought to be dismissed.”
The Deputy Attorney General indicated that “for failure to satisfy the essential requisites for an invocation of the court’s original jurisdiction under Articles 2(1) and 130(1), the instant action is devoid of a cause of action and ought to be dismissed.”