He recalled that the NDC Minority had previously enthusiastically supported and sanctioned the provisions in the National Identification Register Amendment Bill.
He, therefore, wondered why they have now turned around to thwart the progress of the exercise, meant to improve the nation’s security and fast-track its development.
“I had hoped that the exercise to provide all citizens with a national identity card would receive the enthusiastic support from all of us as the project finally gets off the ground after years of wilful stagnation and neglect,” he said.
The President, therefore, called on the Minority in Parliament to stop politicising the national identity registration process and to support the initiative to aid Ghana’s transformation agenda and development.
President Akufo-Addo said these at the 14th graduation ceremony of Ashesi University, at Brekusu near Accra.
NHIS and voter’s ID cards argument
He said the standpoint of the minority that the possession of a voter’s identity card qualified one to be issued with a national identity card was not a tenable argument, considering the fact that many non-Ghanaians were in possession of voter’s cards, which they obtained by offering the NHIS cards as proof of identity.
“I believe it is also generally accepted that the terms of our National Health Insurance Scheme makes it attractive to our neighbours, and many have signed on to benefit from the free healthcare provided under the scheme. This is why the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that the NHIS card should not be used as a form of identification to register for a voter’s ID card.
Work of Parliament’s Select Committee
The Minority had, during the debate on the National Identification Register Amendment Bill, accepted without dissent, the report of Parliament’s Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which did away with the use of voter’s identity cards, driver’s license and baptismal certificates as proof of citizenship, and maintained the use of birth certificates and passports for the acquisition of the national identity cards.
“Unfortunately, we seem to have become embroiled, once again, in another of those full-scale manufactured storms deliberately engineered to slow down progress in everything we try to do.
“If we, as a people, have been conducting our affairs properly throughout the years, there should not be any argument in determining who is a Ghanaian. But we have not,” he said.
The President was unequivocal in stating that, “It should not be in anybody’s interest that we bastardise the identity of a Ghanaian. It should not be in the long-term interest of anybody that we enlist as Ghanaians, people whose loyalty to our nation is limited to access to our free healthcare system.”
No intention to prevent genuine citizens from obtaining Ghana Card
“I certainly have no interest and no intention to prevent genuine citizens from being issued with identity cards. But my oath of office is unequivocal that I owe it to the nation to uphold the law and protect our institutions from being undermined.
“I do not think that there are more credible, basic, documentary requirements for establishing nationality or citizenship than a birth certificate or a passport. An appropriate, acceptable mechanism has been provided in the law to verify the claims of those who have neither,” the President said.
He added, “I maintain that it should be the greatest honour to be able to say I am a Ghanaian, and we should have no difficulty in identifying a Ghanaian not only as a legal entity, but also through his or her behaviour.”
Legal definition of who is a Ghanaian
“There is a legal definition of who is a Ghanaian, and I pray that we abandon giving politics a bad name and support this exercise to proceed rapidly to a successful end.
“The language of de-nationalisation or threats of civil war are, to say the least, extremely unfortunate. They can be fittingly described as base forms of self-serving demagoguery. I am confident that the good sense of the Ghanaian people and the vigilance of the law enforcement agencies will, together, be sufficient to defeat any ill-conceived, destructive adventure for achieving narrow, parochial, partisan ends.”
Lust for power should not cloud one’s sense of judgement
“The lust for power should not cloud one’s sense of judgement. To call yourself a Ghanaian means you must be a responsible citizen,” the President said, and called on all Ghanaians to support the registration exercise.
NDC MPs that supported Amendment Bill
The President recalled that the Ranking Member on the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Select Committee in Parliament, Inusah Fuseini, MP for Tamale Central, is quoted as having stated that “there is no controversy in the amendments. It seeks to expand the field of information that would be required, and bring the information up to date with modern trends”.
He was supported in this by the NDC MP for Banda, Ahmed Ibrahim, who said: “Mr Speaker, from the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, registration and census were done. Therefore, it is very pathetic that, as a country, we do not know who a Ghanaian is… Mr Speaker, if there is something as a country that Ghanaians should come together and support, I believe this bill is one of them.”
The NDC MP for Ellembelle, Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, the former Minister for Petroleum under the Mahama government, in his contribution, further stated, “The amendment bill is long overdue and very critical for our country. The issue of who a Ghanaian is is very critical in this country, especially because of the issues we face.”
According to President Akufo-Addo, “These are samples of the sentiments that allowed the House to accept, unanimously, i.e. without dissent, the report of the committee,” which stated, amongst others, the committee also noted that the bill seeks to do away with the use of voter’s identity cards, driver’s licence and baptismal certificates as proof of citizenship.
“It, however, maintains the use of birth certificates and passports. It further introduces residence permits and other documents evidencing acquired citizenship. Officials of the NIA informed the committee that the changes are consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court in Abu Ramadan v Attorney-General, delivered in May 2016.”
Akufo-Addo replies John Mahama, Asiedu Nketia
Akufo-Addo said the language of de-nationalisation made by former President Mahama or threats of civil war made by NDC General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, the President stressed, are extremely unfortunate and can be fittingly described as base forms of self-serving demagoguery.
“I am confident that the good sense of the Ghanaian people and the vigilance of the law enforcement agencies will, together, be sufficient to defeat any ill-conceived, destructive adventure for achieving narrow, parochial, partisan ends. To call yourself a Ghanaian means you must be a responsible citizen,” the President added.
President Akufo-Addo disclosed that government is taking steps to expedite the process for granting Presidential Charters to tertiary institutions in the country.
He said the undue period associated with the granting of a Presidential Charter for both public and private universities would be a thing of the past as Cabinet has recently approved the establishment of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission to regulate all universities in Ghana.
President Akufo-Addo said with the imminent establishment of the commission, applications by private universities would be expedited and those deserving of Presidential Charters would be granted one.
The granting of the Presidential Charter would make such institutions independent degree-awarding universities.
They would cease to be affiliated to other higher institutions of learning before awarding their certificates.
The President, who, at the graduation ceremony, granted the Ashesi University with its Presidential Charter, said all public and private tertiary institutions, because of their contributions to education and learning in the country, would be treated fairly and equally when they made request for a charter change.
He applauded Ashesi University for its distinctive world-class educational standards and identity, and expressed the hope that the receipt of the charter would inspire the institution to continue to operate with the same discipline and commitment quality, which had made graduates of that university stand out in the world of work across the globe.
Passing on good wishes to the graduates, the President told them to reflect at all times the quality of the Ashesi brand and to make their mark in all spheres of endeavour.
Dome-Brekusu-Kitase road to be constructed
He announced, to rapturous applause by the university’s community, that government was seeking funds for the construction of the Dome-Brekusu-Kitase road, which leads to the institution.