More than 3,000 eligible youth in riverine North Tongu face disenfranchisement

More than 3,000 youth that attained voting age in the North Tongu Constituency of the Volta Region risk missing out on the ongoing limited voter registration exercise.

The Electoral Commission (EC) has gone ahead with its decision to restrict the registration exercise to its district offices only despite fierce opposition from some political Parties, and this is affecting patronage in the Constituency, which is vast and split by the Volta River.

During a media tour of the Constituency with the Member of Parliament, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) experienced the difficulties many seeking to be registered face.

For many in the hundreds of communities several kilometres away from Bator Aveyime where the EC district office is located, a round trip would cost as high as GHC 300, and thus moving with two guarantors made it an unthinkable investment.

Eligibles in communities such as Salaga, which shares border with Ho West District, would have to pay GH¢150 for a motorbike to Juapong before proceeding to Bator.

An average of GH¢40 is charged for a motorbike ride from even some of the closest communities, such as Deve, Avorkpoe, Ayram, Avedotoe, and Workpui.

“I will have to sell 10 bags of maize for my 10 children to go and register. And so, I said they will not go,” a grain seller at Juapong market declared.

Juapong lies on the Eastern Corridor, more than 50 km away from the EC office, and is one of the Region’s oldest and vibrant industrial communities.

Youth in the town said they had been discouraged by the cost of transportation, while the plight of the aged, and the sick were also tabled to buttress the need to provide a registration center there.

One man said his wife had spent three days registering for her Ghana card, and that the experience discouraged them from voter registration.

There were concerns over the spillage of dams up north, which could raise the risk levels in crossing the Volta River to access the registration center.

Those who do not want to risk the river have to go through Sogakope at an even heavier cost to the mostly rural communities.

“We are not going there because of the River Volta. People die in the river and so if the EC is not coming here, we are also not going there. Then no vote,” many echoed.

The MP who was visiting communities in the Constituency to assess their challenges with the exercise, stopped at the Kpong Dam, expressed concern that several communities made sacrifices for its construction, and did not deserve to be left out of a national participatory exercise.

“People of this area sacrificed for this dam. Most are yet to receive compensation and are living in squalid conditions. We are all citizens. We have contributed to the forward march of our country. A right is not a privilege”.

Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa would proceed to cross the river to the EC office, where only 250 had been captured in the three days since the registration began, and network challenges were blamed in addition to the accessibility issues.

The centre had to be closed ahead of the 1700 hours due to the network slump, and a woman lamented how she had to board four different vehicles to get there.

Mr Ablakwa said the situation was nationwide and could breed gerrymandering and the influx of strangers onto the electoral roll in the area.

The MP noted also that the exercise was the first in two years, so, the eligible population required a more reaching approach.

The limited registration exercise begun Tuesday, September 12, and would end October 09, 2023.

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