The proposed Oti Region: What gov’t should have done

The proposed Oti Region: What gov’t should have done

In late 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, appointed a Commission of Inquiry to look into the demand and to make recommendations on all the

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In late 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, appointed a Commission of Inquiry to look into the demand and to make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation, alteration or merge of regions in Ghana.

Justice Brobbey Commission, the appointed Commission, started its work in late November 2017 and submitted its recommendation to the [ads1]President in June 2018.

The Commission recommended the creation of six new regions, namely, Ahafo, Brong East, North East, Oti, Savannah and Western North and also that the referendum should be limited only to the areas directly impacted.

Consequently, the Electoral Commission set December 27, 2018 for the referendum.

The Oti Region if carved out of the northern part of the Volta Region, will be in fulfilment of a campaign promise made by the New Patriotic Party.
Prior to the 2016 Ghanaian general election, the then candidate Nana Akufo-Addo declared that when elected, he would explore the possibility of creating new regions out of some of the existing regions in Ghana in order to bring government closer to citizens.

It is also on record that the previous President, John Dramani Mahama, was aware of the petition submitted by the traditional rulers in Northern Volta and he told ecstatic residents of Jasikan, one of the areas agitating for the creation of the region, that it is possible to create a new region out of the Volta Region during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

He added that, the creation would have to go through the Constitutional process and urged the people to vote massively for the NDC.

Conundrum

It is my assessment that the likelihood of the proposed Oti Region being created is extremely high if the referendum is limited to the area currently agitating for it.

It is also widely known that there is another pressure group that has been agitating for the entire Volta Region to secede from Ghana and to become an independent country (Western Togoland). This agitation has been simmering for some years now but has recently come into the open.

The above developments point to my claim that Volta Region is at a crossroad right now.

If Volta Region is allowed to be split into two regions, (i.e. the proposed Oti Region and Southern Volta) then there is a potential for the level of agitation for the entire Volta Region to secede from Ghana to increase exponentially.

On the other hand, if the proposed Oti Region is denied the request to split from Volta Region, then the ruling government will pay a political price in the 2020 elections.

It is on the basis of this conundrum that I consider it necessary to have my say in the matter. My discussion would be limited to the creation of the proposed Oti Region and would exclude the other new regions proposed for Ghana.

The 9-member Justice Brobbey Commission, after touring Volta Region recommended the creation of the proposed Oti Region.

The root cause of the agitation for the creation of the proposed Oti Region is the lack of development in Northern Volta as claimed by the proponents. Surely the Justice Brobbey Commission would have done some work to determine whether this lack of development is really true. The reason being that the entire Volta Region suffers from this condition.

The Regional Capital, Ho had a stadium built under the Kwame Nkrumah administration in the 1960s. The other significant additional developments over the past 50 years since then have been the Trafalgar Hospital and the Airport whose construction started as recently as September 2015.

Kete-Krachi, one of the key areas in the proposed Oti Region has an air strip. The Ho Sports Stadium suffers from lack of maintenance to the extent that the complex and areas around it have been subjected to open defecation. This condition could not be classified as something that the indigenes of Northern Volta would be envious of.

Volta Region has no railway facilities. Based on the Feeder Roads Dept. 2009 Annual Report for the Volta Region, the condition of the entire feeder roads were classified as:

– 15.6%; in good state.

– 43.9%; in fairly good condition and

– The remaining 40.5%; in very poor state.

Most of the developments at Tsito, a provisional town 22 kilometres West of Ho, were carried out by the Tsito Community itself. For example, the Tsito Adult College was built and commissioned in the late 1950s by the Community itself with assistance from the Danes.

The College has now been turned into a Teaching Centre for distance learning, under the auspices of the University of Ghana, Legon. There is minimal Government input into the development of the Community. The Tsito to Ho road is now in deplorable state. The typical 15 minutes journey now takes over twice as long. The Sokode Etoe to Lokoe section of the road is a nightmare. Other areas of the region like Peki, Keta, Kpetoe, Denu, Anfoega etc. suffer from the same lack of development by the Central Government. No region within Ghana can boast of equal or even development across it.

Root cause of agitation

Agitation for the creation of the new region started in the Rawlings era and continued up to the present Nana Akuffo Addo administration.

It was spearheaded by traditional leaders in the eight districts of Northern Volta. The districts are:

1. Krachi-West,

2. Krachi-East,

3. Krachi-Nchumuru,

4. Nkwanta-North,

5. Nkwanta-South,

6. Kadjebi-Akan,

7. Jasikan and

8. Biakoye.

If the source of agitation is truly the lack of development due to neglect by Volta Region, then the Justice Brobbey Commission would have at least uncovered this while in the Region.

As indicated earlier, most parts of Volta Region suffer from the same fate as the proposed Oti Region.

In my view, one of Justice Brobbey Commission’s recommendation would have been to find ways and means to develop the proposed Oti Region and other areas suffering from the same state of neglect.

It is also my view that the Commission’s position was compromised by the administration’s desire to fulfil a campaign promise and as such did not bother to determine the root cause of the problem and propose adequate solutions accordingly.

The Commission would have at least identified the following:

– The creation of Upper East and Upper West Regions did not result into enhanced development in these areas.

– Over the past 18 years, the distribution of Volta Regional Ministers by area are as follows:

43%; from the proposed Oti Region.

43%; from Southern Volta and

7%; from other areas outside the Volta Region.

This distribution of Regional Leaders clearly demonstrates that Southern Volta did not neglect the proposed Oti Region. The indigenes of the proposed Oti Region were equally represented at the helm of affairs during these periods.

– Most parts of Volta Region including Southern Volta suffer the same fate as the proposed Oti Region.

My stand

I make the following points for consideration:

1. Regardless of whether the proposal was presented to and agreed to by previous regimes or not, what the current government needs to do is to determine (without prejudice) whether the proposal would solve the perceived or actual problem. Additionally, it also needs to look at other options available for solving the problem.

2. My understanding of the problem is the: “Lack of development in Northern Volta”. If that is honestly the case, then it is my view that all the options available to address this basic problem ought to be explored.

Some of the options I propose are:

a) Development funds could be made directly to all existing Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA) to enable them develop their respective areas.

It is interesting to note that the administration through the Deputy Local Government Minister, Mr. Collins Ntim, recently presented a document to parliament for the creation of 5 new districts.

According to this document, the move will help decentralise governance and help extend development to these areas. 38 new Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA) were created in 2017 alone and the document before parliament will bring the total to 259 MMDAs. The distribution of new districts created across the whole country in the recent past is shown below.

The Ashanti and Eastern Regions, the stronghold of the ruling Government have the lion share of the new districts created i.e. over 56%.

Volta Region (including the proposed Oti Region) was conspicuously left out and therefore contradicts the Government’s own position of decentralisation, by using these districts, to bring about development.

At least, the proposed Oti Region should have had a few districts allocated to it if the Government’s agenda for the area is seriously about development.

b) The proposed Oti Region is recognised as a significant food production area in Volta Region. The government could therefore demonstrate its desire to develop the area by undertaking significant or major infrastructural projects like subsidised irrigation systems, grain and produce storage facilities in order to enhance agricultural output. I maintain that the creation of a separate Oti Region is only going to result in increased administration activities in the capital town of the proposed region.

3. Personally l discern some flaws in the argument put up by the Government.

a) The submission by the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, that when Scotland wanted to break away from UK, the voting was conducted only by the Scottish is not appropriate in this regard as the matter pertains to Ghana’s Constitution. It is simply not good enough for the President to just say trust me, I will abide by the Constitution.

b) The Ghana Information Minister, Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah had also recently taken issue with Togbe Afede XIV, the Agbogbomefia of Asogli State and the President of National House of Chiefs.

Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah indicated that Togbe Afede was consulted on several occasions regarding the creation of the proposed Oti Region and that he could not see any reason why Togbe Afede should be objecting to the process now.

For me, what the Government ought to do is to consult widely across Volta Region and to not limit itself to selected few areas. Failure to do so will play into the hands of those currently agitating for the entire Volta Region to secede from Ghana.

c) I strongly believe that a single document that speaks for all of us is the Ghana Constitution which must be STRICTLY adhered to.

In my view, the Constitution is fairly vague in regards to who should vote when a split like that of the proposed Oti Region is being considered. However, Article 5.7 of the Constitution is very clear when a merger is to occur. If that is the case, then all persons in both regions shall be required to vote.

Article (7) of the Constitution

“Where a referendum involves the merger of two or more regions, the issue shall not be taken to be determined unless at least sixty per cent of the persons entitled to vote at the referendum in each such region voted in favour of the merger of the two or more regions; and accordingly, clause (6) of this article shall not apply to the referendum”.

One can therefore infer from Article (7) that if the reverse is to occur, as is the case with the proposed Oti Region and the remaining Volta Region, then all persons entitled to vote in both areas shall be required to vote. This is because the creation of new regions would involve the changes or modification of boundaries of the region affected regions.

The Government is actively pushing an agenda which calls for the vote to be limited to only the proposed Oti Region and the posture currently being adopted by the law enforcement officers are both concerning.

d) The Justice Brobbey Commission submitted its recommendation to the President in June 2018. Five months after, our parliamentary representatives have not even been furnished with copies of the report when the referendum is schedule for late December approximately in 5 weeks’ time. The people deserve to see the report and ascertain how “the substantial need for the creation of the proposed Oti Region was established”.

My understanding is that the consultation was limited to Ho, the regional capital and Hohoe a provisional town near the proposed Oti Region. The Commission then concentrated solely on areas where the petition for the creation of the new region came from. One would have expected consultations to have taken place in key areas like Awudome, Peki, Aflao, and Keta. The Commission’s conduct at Ho offers a salutary example where information was presented, and questions not answered candidly. One would not honestly classify the presentation at Ho as a true consultation event (which ought to be a give and take affair). A properly constituted Commission of Inquiry should canvass and consider the views of all concerned. Whether it be for or against a proposition.

e) I conclude by saying that the outcome of the consultation process must be seen to be fair, impartial and it must be in compliance with Article 5.2 of the Constitution (reference below).

Article 5.2

“If the President, upon a petition being presented to him and, on the advice of the Council of State, is satisfied that there is substantial demand for”.

(a) The creation of a new region;

(b) The alteration of the boundaries of a region, whether or not the alteration involves the creation of a new region; or

(c) The merger of any two or more regions;

he shall, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, appoint a commission of inquiry to inquire into the demand and to make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation, alteration or merge.

f) I am aware that there is a lawsuit now in court challenging the Government’s claim that the vote ought to be limited to the proposed Oti Region only and I understand it quotes the Constitution in support of it.

I doubt this claim as it is not the intent of the Constitution. If this is true, then there is the potential to obviously open the floodgates for Awudome, North Tongu, South Tongu and other areas to advocate for their regions in future. I see this as recipe for disaster.

4. It is without doubt that the Government has cunningly caused the referendum date,27th December 2018, to be selected to coincide with the date on which the President must publish the Justice Brobbey Commission as required by Article 280 of the Constitution.

Article 280 (3) of the Ghana Constitution states:

“The President shall, subject to clause (4) of this article cause to be published the report of a commission of inquiry together with the White Paper on it within six months after the date of the submission of the report by the commission”.

It is evident from the Constitution that the maximum allowable period between the submission of the report and its publication is 6 months.

The report was submitted into the President in June 2018 and the due date for its publication is late Dec 2018.

The referendum is schedule for 27th Dec. 2018 and this does not give Ghanaians enough time to digest the report and hence cast their votes accordingly.

The report must be published now.

5. One major factor leading to wars in our traditional areas is land and border dispute. Some of the many living examples are the Alavanyo/Nkonya and the Tsito/Peki area wars.

The Alavanyo/Nkonya border dispute, for example, was a result of the arbitrary land division by the then “German Colonial Masters”.

These disputes are still lingering on with no end date in sight! Any careless action on the Government’s part may just result in a new eternal land dispute which the region does not want at this time.

Volta Region in particular and especially the south, is sensitive about any signs of “akanisation” of the region.

Existing records show that the predecessor to the great Ashanti King, Nana Obiri Yeboa (1660-1697) was Nana Oti Akenten (1630-1660).

The question which is being asked is whether there is any relationship between the proposed Oti Region and the great Ashanti King, Nana Oti Akenten.

It is therefore absolutely crucial prior to the conduct of any referendum that the Government must consult both sides of the cleavage and deliberate on these issues including new borders.

6. The speed with which this matter is being rushed through when there is widespread but silent opposition to it is also concerning. This portrays the Government as being completely out of touch with the people or simply arrogant.

An issue of this nature, that has major impact on the entire Volta Region, must be handled with a lot more sensitivity than what we see now. Failure to do so will play into the hands of those agitating for the Volta Region to secede from Ghana and further cause them to harden their positions.

Conclusion and recommendations

– Creating new regions, by themselves, will not lead to enhanced development. The reason being that the resources available to the nation remain unchanged. What is required is fair and equitable allocation of these resources directly to the areas.

– The evidence suggests that the creation of new regions; e.g. Upper East and Upper West, previously carried out, did not result in constructive development. It certainly resulted in additional financial stress on the Government in terms of paying for administration activities without any tangible benefits.

– The major challenge confronting the country which must be quickly addressed, is the allocation of funds to undertake projects in the various Metropolis, Municipalities and Districts.

– The Justice Brobbey Commission failed to look outside the box. It went in with the sole aim of implementing a campaign promise by the current administration. Otherwise it would have identified that the root cause of the agitation for the creation of the proposed Oti Region cuts across all parts of Volta Region.

– Our political representatives must have access to the report now and ascertain how the substantial need for Oti Region was established.

– These political representatives must consult with the people they represent, seek to build or reject support for the proposal, before the vote is cast as there is a potential for the secessionists to capitalise on this.

– I am of the view that the Constitution says when a proposal entails altering the boundary of a region, whether or not it involves the creation of a new region, there shall be a referendum across the entire affected region rather than only the carved out portion.

– Finally, there is a matter in court challenging the Government’s position. The Government must exercise restraint and patience for the court proceeding to take its natural course.

– One major ingredient leading to wars in our traditional areas is land and border dispute. The Government is therefore urged to tread carefully as the issues involved are too sensitive for them to be handled the way they are being done now