A US-based Ghanaian professor is vehemently opposed to the creation of six new regions in Ghana and is asking for its rejection.
Prof Kwaku Asare has consequently petitioned the Commission inquiring into the creation of the new regions, arguing there are no “demonstrable benefits” to warrant the creation of these new regions.
If anything, Professor Asare popularly referred to as Kwaku Azar is convinced the proposed new regions will rather impose a considerable cost on an already “resource-strapped country.”
In his 12-paged petition, a copy of which was accessed by Myjoyonline.com, Prof Asare, among other issues, insists, there is neither a need nor substantial demand for the creation of the new regions.
He argued the petitions submitted in favour of the creation of the regions, though well-intentioned, are borne out of a “misleading notion that creating new regions spur economic development and alleviate poverty.”
As part of the 2016 elections, the then opposition New Patriotic Party promised to create new regions if voted into power. The promise, the party contended was as a result of consultations with stakeholders in the Western, Northern, Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions.
On winning the election a minister, Dan Botwe, was appointed with the responsibility of overseeing the creation of the new regions.
At least six petitions have already been submitted first to the president, then to the Council of State who then advised the president to constitute a Commission of Inquiry to carefully scrutinise the petitions and lead the effort towards a referendum which may accept or reject the proposal for the six regions.
The petitioners are calling for a Western Northern Region, to be carved out of the Western Region, Oti Region from the Volta Region, Bono East and Ahafo Regions from the Brong Ahafo Region, as well as the Northeastern Corridor Region and Gonjaland Region all from the Northern Region.
The Commission of Enquiry has begun its sittings with a careful scrutiny of the various petitions before it.
However, a dissenting petition, questioning the necessity of creating six new regions has been submitted to the Commission by Kwaku Azar who is requesting for the rejection of same.
Tracing the history of regions in Ghana, Prof Kwaku Asare said there cannot be any justifiable reason for the creation of six new regions in one year when in 60 years (after independence) Ghana, albeit at different stages, has managed with 10 regions with all its attendant challenges.
“While the number of regions has increased from 5 to 10, over the 60 years of our independence, there is no evidence that the increase has benefited the country as a whole or the specific regions that have been created from the increasing balkanization,” he said in the petition.
Cost of new regions
Kwaku Azar said the cost implications for six new regions will be excessively high for a country struggling to get on its feet.
While demanding for an impact analysis or a financial plan for the creation of the six new regions, the Accounting Professor who has won many landmark constitutional cases in Ghana’s Supreme Court, has reminded the commission and the government in particular of the constitutional provisions that requires the setting up of a new Regional Police and Prison Committees, Regional House of Chiefs, Regional CHRAJ, Regional Lands Commission, Regional branch National Commisison for Civic Education (NCCE), Regional minister and deputy, Regional Electoral Commission representative, representative of National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), representative of Attorney General only to mention but a few.
“I must emphasize that many of these committee requirements cannot be met by simply shifting staff around. Au contraire, offices must be set up and furnished, management information systems must be emplaced, etc. These are substantial costs that would only worsen the budgetary deficits,” he stated.
As part of a constitutional requirement, every region in Ghana must be reasonably represented in the appointment of public officers, including cabinet ministers, establishment of educational institutions at all levels.
Prof Asare reckons the country will be opening itself up for needless controversies in the event these regions are voted for in a referendum.
If these regions are granted, Kwaku Azar is worried persons or groups with selfish and parochial interest will mount pressure on political elites to create new regions that will only inure to the benefit of the few at the detriment of the entire community and the country at large.
“We are on a slippery slope to a tragedy of the commons where traditional groups compete to create regions in order to consume more resources to the detriment of the common good. My personal experience is that such infectious balkanization worsens our Insular proclivities. While regions exist only for administrative convenience, we risk creating a dangerous culture of “we are not like those in the east so we want our own region, followed by our own cabinet ministers and universities.” We can’t sustain this culture and must not encourage it,” he argued.
Contrary to claims by the petitioners that the new regions will engender development and alleviate poverty, Kwaku Azar said the experience of the past does not support such an argument.
“Based on a recent report by the Ghana Statistical Service, poverty seems to be pervasive, especially in the newly created regions (Ghana Poverty Mapping Report, GSS May 2015).”
“…Faced with this challenging poverty map, I submit that government effort is better directed at identifying and rooting out poverty
in the affected districts rather than using scarce resources to engage in splitting up the regions.
Even if the government were to gloss over these sentiments, Prof Asare said there are “significant legal questions” about who has the right to vote in the referendum.
He is, therefore, appealing to the Commission to reject the temptation of creating these new regions which may end up becoming an albatross on the country’s neck.