The Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, is calling on government to release the results of the 2010 population and housing census, 18 months after it was conducted, in time for the 2012 biometric voter registration exercise.
In an exclusive interview with the New Statesman, the Head of the policy and governance think tank stated that no credible explanation has so far been offered by government for the delay in the release of the results, adding that, as things stand, there is no means of verifying the demographic data of a district or constituency before registration commences.
According to Gabby, the delay in releasing the census results could be deliberate as credible sources within the GSS suggesting to DI that the 2010 census results have been tallied, verified and approved. This development, according to Gabby, paints a disturbing picture for the impending biometric registration with.
Gabby explained that publishing the census figures before the impending biometric registration, commencing in 12 days time, will help political parties, civil society organisations, the EC, among others to better track voter registration trends in line with figures from the 2010 census.
“Let's assume that the census figures say there are 6,000 Ghanaian adults, whilst the biometric voter's list registers 10,000 adults. We will be able to make a case that the extra 4,000 could have been brought in, say, from a neighbouring country. Such a large discrepancy would certainly call for greater scrutiny and explanations,” Gabby said.
He continued, “It is therefore important the census results, which we know are available and have been processed, be released so the political parties and other stake holders can get hold of it and better track the registration process.”
Indeed, in response to a question posed by Gabby, at an IDEG event on biometric registration, Prof Jega, Chairman of Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission, justified Nigeria's final voters' list being about six million more than the provisional figures because the final list corresponded with the census figures.
The DI man therefore wondered why President Mills, despite his verbal assurances of a free and fair election “does not appear to appreciate the usefulness in making the census results public and available to all in order to help in the national efforts towards a credible 2012 general elections.”
Gabby commended the EC for the progressive efforts it continues to make towards enhance the credibility of Ghana's electoral processes over the years, adding that “we still think the publication of the 2010 census figures will further enhance that credibility and reinforce public confidence in the system if used to track this electoral cycle's voter registration trends.”
Already, the Electoral Commission has stated that it is awaiting final data from the 2010 census to enable it create additional constituencies ahead of the 2012 general elections. An earlier release of the census would have allowed the EC to undertake the upcoming voter registration with the new electoral boundaries.
While supporting the call by the policy think-tank, the General Secretary of the NPP, Kwadwo Owusu- Afriyie says failure by government to publish the results gives credence to his party's long held view that government intends manipulating the census figures for its own parochial interest.
“It is long overdue that the census results ought to be published,” Sir John said. “The government left the world to believe that Grace Bediako [Head of Statistical Service] was booted out because of incompetence, but since then why has it taken such a long time for the census to be published.”
The NPP scribe added: “We demand that it should be published to inform all of us. If the report is not made public to all of us before March 24 then the only conclusion we could arrive at is that government has something to hide.”