The Vice President’s Chief of Staff, Augustine Blay, has said that Ghanaians can travel to any country in West Africa with the Ghana Card without a passport.
He made the claim when he granted an interview on the morning show of Accra-based Citi FM. Below, Fact-Check Ghana produces a transcript of the conversation between Bernard Avle, host of Citi FM’s morning show, and Augustine Blay.
Bernard: As we speak, how many countries can I enter with the Ghana Card?
Augustine: In 2015, ECOWAS Protocol specified how each country must design their card that they will allow their citizens to circulate around the sub-region. So with the Ghana Card today, you can go around with your ID card, the Ghana Card, within the ECOWAS sub-region.
Bernard: So all 16 ECOWAS countries?
Bernard: So I can go to Nigeria tomorrow morning with my Ghana Card?
Augustine: Yes, yes, yes, you can do that.
To confirm the claim of the Veep’s Chief of Staff, Godfred Akoto Boafo, a co-host of the morning show, together with Bernard Avle, quizzed further.
“So you are saying that as we are sitting here, I can fly to any ECOWAS country comfortably without a passport”
“Yes,” Mr. Blay affirmed.
On the same day, Augustine Blay granted an interview with Accra-based TV3 and made similar claims.
“The multilateral agreement we have today, based on ECOWAS Protocol that was signed in 2015, Ghana Card can be used to travel across all the 16 ECOWAS countries,” he said.
In the last few days, the Ghana Card has become a topical subject of media and public debates. This followed the emergence of news that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had congratulated Ghana for a successful transformation of its biometric card (Ghana Card) to an e-passport for international travel. The ICAO later came out to clarify that it had not certified the Ghana Card as an e-passport as some media outlets had reported it. The clarification has generated a lot of concerns on whether the Ghana Card can indeed be used to travel.
Fact-Check Ghana followed up on the claim by Augustine Blay on whether the Card can be used to travel by air to any country in West Africa without needing a passport.
The team decided to verify the claim from the Ghana Immigration Service and the Airline companies that travel from Ghana to countries within the West Africa subregion. The two stakeholders are the main institutions that are immediately essential when one decides to travel particularly by air to any country in West Africa.
Interviews with Airline Companies
Fact-Check Ghana made enquiries from the Ghana offices of five airline companies that are reputed to regularly fly within West Africa. They are Africa World Airlines (AWA), Asky, Air Peace, Air Cote D’Ivoire, and Emirates.
All the Airline companies the team spoke with indicated they would not admit onboard their flight any passenger with just the Card as it is not valid for international travels.
“We only take valid passports,’’ Nora, a client service executive with Asky, told Fact-Check Ghana. “We haven’t received any mail or direction concerning using Ghana Card for travels”.
“We don’t accept Ghana Card at this moment. There’s no communication on that with regards to the Emirates,” Comfort of the Emirates told the team.
You cannot travel with the Ghana card yet – Public Affair Directorate of Ghana Immigration Service
The team proceeded to speak with the Ghana Immigration Service. The Head of the Public Affairs of the Ghana Immigration Service, Supt. Michael Amoako-Atta, said nothing had been approved yet on using the Card as an e-passport for travels to West African countries.
“At the moment, just at the weekend when this issue came out, stakeholders are now meeting to look at limitation modalities, if you look at the story that came out from the Vice President’s office. As one of the implementing agencies, we are looking at what Ghanaians need to know when it comes to travelling with the Ghana card,” he said.
Supt. Amoako-Atta added that until March 1, 2022, when the details of using the Card to travel are communicated, Ghanaians will have to rely solely on a valid passport to travel anywhere outside the country as it has always been.
“So until the effective date takes effect, then you have to go through the normal way with the Ghana passport or the ECOWAS passport as we call it. So I am sure before the 1st [March] all the stakeholders will come out with certain guidelines whether you can use the e-card within ECOWAS members states or it’s only for returning journeys back to Ghana,” Supt. Amoako-Atta explained.
In conclusion, the claim that one could travel to any West African country as of yesterday with the Ghana Card is false.