By Foday Moriba Conteh
During a Press Conference that was convened by the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party on the 27th February 2020 at its head office on Railway Line in Freetown, the leadership of the party stated that whereas the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) has the mandate to develop and maintain a permanent Civil Register for the entire population of Sierra Leone, however, the NCRA Act 2016, specifically Section 1 of the Act defines a civil register as meaning a register of Adoptions, Births, Deaths, Divorces, Marriages or nullities as the case may be for the purpose of issuing out Biometric Identity Cards on the basis of the data generated by its civil registration exercise.
They pointed out that the exercise is expected to be a continuous exercise and not an episodic event from which NCRA can make baseline data available for use by other Government institutions that may need such information in the exercise of their duties.
“The APC party wishes to make it abundantly clear that the NCRA does not have the mandate to independently generate a Voters Register for use during National or Local or any elections in general and certainly not for the 2022 Local Council Elections and 2023 National Elections,” they maintained.
According to the party, the authority to register voters is vested in the National Electoral Commission (“NEC”) pursuant to Section 33 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone the supreme law of this land.
They informed that their understanding as a party of Section 33 of the 1991 Constitution as well as Section 7 of the Public Elections Act of 2012 is that only NEC has the constitutional mandate to conduct and supervise the registration of voters for, and of, all public elections and referenda in Sierra Leone – and that includes developing a comprehensive and credible register of eligible voters.
The Party told newsmen that based on the above, the public notice issued by the NCRA that “The authority further wishes to inform the general public that only those whose details are in the Permanent Civil Register will be eligible to obtain Biometric National Identification Cards and to vote in all public elections beginning with the 2022 Local Council Election.” and that “Confirmation of Registrants’ Personal Details and Registration can be done at any of the NCRA Centres in the country within the specified timeframes” is flawed and ultra vires our National Constitution as well as its enabling Act, the NCRA Act of 2016 itself.
“This declaration by the NCRA further contravenes Section 22 of the Public Elections Act which states that only a Sitting President on the notification of NEC shall have the power after two years since the last order from President Koroma to order the creation of a “National Register of Voters,” they furthered.
They said the APC party views this latest action by NCRA as a badly crafted political manoeuver to manipulate and distort the baseline civil registration data in Sierra Leone, and use it as a basis to disadvantage and disenfranchise opposition political parties that do not have access to the raw data.
According to them the NCRA’s desperation to take over the creation of the voters register and in the process usurp the power of NEC and His Excellency the President is highly suspicious and puts the very essence of our democracy at risk and every well-meaning Sierra Leonean and our revered development partners MUST resist it.
The APC Party, stated that they further wish to make it known that never in the history of Sierra Leone has Registration or Verification of Sierra Leonean nationals either for the purposes of preparing a voters register or a Civic Register been done in only one week. Such an exercise has also always been done simultaneously across the country and not one region after the other.
“The one week allocated for the verification and registration of entire populations (thousands of people) in a whole region (comprising of 3 to 4 districts) is unrealistic and will definitely disenfranchise populations in difficult terrains, hard to reach areas, and the Diaspora. The attempt to refrain from doing same simultaneously across the country can only lend credence to the belief that the NCRA in cohort with others unknown is embarking on a desperate attempt to manipulate the Voters Register and lay the foundation for rigging all subsequent elections,” the party purported .
They said it would certainly undermine the hard won democratic credentials that we have tried so hard over the years to nurture and sustain, and even risk plunging this country back into chaos and anarchy.
The APC Party intimated that they have sent a letter to His Excellency President Bio drawing his attention to the attempt by the NCRA to usurp his Executive Authority as President and those of the NEC.
The APC Party called on the President to uphold the Constitution and stop the NCRA from undermining the Constitution and bringing our democratic institutions into disrepute. The APC Party further called on the country’s development partners and the international community, as our revered moral guarantors that have invested so much to nurture our democracy and build the foundations for sustainable peace and security in Sierra Leone to note these constitutional breaches and appreciate the repercussion should this course of action continues.
Finally, the leadership of the APC Party assured its members at home and abroad that the Party shall utilize all democratic and legal means at their disposal to constructively resist any attempts by NCRA and its cohorts to undermine their votes, to undermine the Constitution of this great land, to thwart the democratic process and undermine the democratic and good governance credentials that they have all worked so hard over the years to nurture and sustain.