NIA is entitled to work – High Court rules registration should continue as it dismisses injunction
An Accra High Court has ruled that the National Identification Authority is entitled to continue with its work of registering Ghanaians.
Court of Appeal judge Anthony Oppong who is sitting as an additional High Court judge held that the application for an injunction is based on a grievous error and misunderstanding of the President’s social distancing directive. The court then proceeds to dismiss the substantive case as well.
Two citizens Mark Oliver Kevor and Emmanuel Okrah filed a case in court asking that the NIA be stopped from carrying out its registration exercise. They maintain the exercise is contrary to the social distancing directives issued by President Akufo-Addo in the wake of the Covid-19 cases recorded in Ghana.
A different division of the High Court presided over by Justice Daniel Mensah on March 23 granted a similar request filed by businessman Prince Tabi and 29 others. This injunction is to be in force for the next 10 days since March 23. The NIA has since Saturday morning called of its exercise citing the application filed by Kevor and others.
The AG’s office which is joined as a defendant in this action filed two applications in court. The first asking the court to hear the injunction motion filed by the two citizens earlier than usual. The other asking the court to dismiss the application for injunction.
Lawyer for the two citizens Nii Kpapko Samoa Addo on Thursday urged the court to dismiss the request to have the case heard earlier than usual. He maintained the rules of court required that they be served with such an application three days before the court date. He also argued that the High Court differently constituted had already granted an injunction in respect of the same facts.
Deputy Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame disagreed maintaining the state’s request is legal. He also urged the court to disregard the reference to a granted injunction since that was not a matter before the court. Justice Anthony Oppong in Favour if the Deputy AG allowing the case to be heard on Friday, March 27, instead of April 9.
When the case was called on Friday at 9:30am lawyer for the two citizens and the Deputy AG were not in court. Lawyer for the NIA Kwaku Asirifi was however present with a Senior State Attorney Yvonne Bannerman representing the Deputy AG whom she said was on his way.
Plaintiffs want to withdraw case
Lawyers for the plaintiffs Nii Kpapko Samoa Addo had on Thursday told Evans Mensah on newsnite on joyfm that he will withdraw the case on Friday. Justice Oppong after observing the absence of the lawyers indicated that he has seen a copy of a request seeking to withdraw the case. He whoever said he will proceed to rule on the injunction application. Justice Oppong said the case of the two citizens hinged on the President’s directives on social distancing. He said the court had extensively studied that address and concluded that it did not bar the NIA from continuing its work.
He also held that their rights to register have not been breached since the Ghana card was not the only means of been registered as a voter. He said the refusal of the two citizens to participate in the registration amounts to a subjective decision and not a breach of their rights since they can actually acquire the card later on. He described the case of the plaintiff as a drunken giant walking on the lips of a mosquito, “it is bound to fall”, he concluded. He proceeded to not only dismiss the injunction but dismissed the substantive case as well.
Drama after ruling
Deputy AG Godfred Yeboah Dame and Nii Samoa Addo walked in just minutes before Justice Oppong concluded his ruling. Justice Oppong indicated to Mr. Addo he had proceeded to rule on the injunction because he had not been been around to move his motion asking that he’s allowed to discontinue the case. The Deputy AG pointed out to the court that the rules of the court required that the lawyers actually inform the court and ask for permission to discontinue the case.
A banter then ensued between Mr. Dame and Mr. Addo with the former remarking that the court room “is not a market” so he should be allowed to conclude his address to the court. Mr. Dame proceeded to draw the court’s attention to a Facebook post he said Mr.Addo had made. Mr. Addo will have none of that and rose to interject. The judge asked the two lawyers to calm down. The Deputy AG proceeded to state that he had been attacked in the media for simply defending the state and now that the court had agreed with him, he won’t even bother to ask for cost.
The NIA’s lawyer however asked for cost of 20,000 cedis to be slapped on each of the plaintiffs. Justice Oppong granted a cost of 6,000 against the two citizens.