Parliament was very interesting yesterday. The Minority recalled the House, ostensibly to urge it to form an investigative committee to look into the alleged Ford Expedition gift from a Burkinabe businessman. The Speaker, Hon. Doe Adjaho dismissed their request but the Minority did not take kindly to the Speaker’s dismissal and held a press conference afterwards. We will playback some of the happenings in Parliament and subsequent press briefing by the Minority…
What was billed to be a showdown between the Majority and the Minority in Parliament yesterday over a motion initiated by the Minority Caucus for a probe into the Ford Expedition gift to the President turned out to be a no-show.
In just about 12 minutes, the Speaker, Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, dismissed the motion by the Minority Caucus, as a result of which there was no debate on the motion.
The Speaker ruled that the matter that the Minority wanted Parliament to wade into was already being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
Prior to yesterday’s sitting, the public space had been filled with various interpretations of the move by the Minority Caucus and that compelled the House to cut short the recess by MPs.
Some commentators had said the Minority Caucus wanted to use the processes to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President for accepting the Ford Expedition gift from the Burkinabe contractor, Mr Jibrille Kanazoe.
The Minority came out to clarify its position on the matter, saying it was a motion to investigate the gift to the President.
Last Wednesday, the Majority in Parliament, led by Mr Alban Bagbin, described the Minority’s linkage of the recall of Parliament to moves to impeach President Mahama as deliberately misleading and a waste of resources and time.
Contrary to opinions that the two sides of the House would be antagonistic to each other prior to the debate yesterday, all the MPs looked very composed in anticipation of the Speaker’s arrival for normal business.
When the Speaker entered, the House rose to show respect to him, with no sign of a showdown in sight.
Some had expected the Speaker to engage the Minority Caucus that initiated the motion. However, the Speaker, when he took his seat, moved straight into business to catalogue the reasons the motion was inadmissible in law and shot it down.
Reasons for dismissal
In dismissing the motion, Mr Adjaho maintained that the case was being investigated by CHRAJ, saying: “It is my view, therefore, that the CHRAJ is the institution vested with the exclusive constitutional authority to deal with all relevant matters relating to breach of code of conduct of officers, including this matter.”
“It is the CHRAJ that is vested with jurisdiction to investigate the allegation of breach of conduct for public officers, including the President. It is also instructive to note that the Supreme Court has made a number of pronouncements regarding the exclusive jurisdiction in terms of Chapter 24 of the Constitution dealing with the code of conduct for public officers, including the President,” he explained.
Supreme Court interpretation
The Speaker, explaining his ruling further, made reference to Mr Justice Stephen Allan Brobbey, a justice of the Supreme Court, who had stated that “Article 287 mandates that complaints under Chapter 24 of the Constitution are to be investigated exclusively by the CHRAJ”.
“Since the case of Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Dr Omane Boamah versus Jake Otanka Obetsebi Lamptey and the Attorney-General, this House is bound by the interpretation put on the Constitution by the Supreme Court,” Mr Adjaho added.
He said he was of a firm conviction that constitutional bodies ought to respect one another in the performance of their duties in order to avoid role conflicts.
He explained that ordinarily he would have declared the motion as inadmissible at the first instance but the originator of the motion had tied it in to the request for the recall of the House.
“When a motion is admitted, it is sent to the Clerk. The Clerk then sends it to the Business Committee. When the Business Committee programmes it, then it appears on the Order Paper. Ordinarily, I would have returned the motion to the member in whose name it stands as being inadmissible but the motion was tied contemporaneously to the request for the recall of the House and, therefore, left me with no discretion in recalling the House,” he said.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Mr Adjaho had said at the time of adjourning the House sine die on Friday, August 5, 2016, after disposing of a rather tall agenda of legislative business, it was never within his contemplation that the House would be recalled for a special meeting “during this crucial period of electioneering”.
The request for the special meeting, he said, was at the request of the Minority Caucus and that he had received the request in the afternoon of Friday, August 19, 2016 and noted that out of a list of 121 names attached to it, 104 members had signed the request.
“That number constituted 37.81 per cent of the total number of 275 members of the House which more than satisfied the minimum requirement of 15 per cent provided for summoning a meeting of Parliament,” he recounted.
He added that when he received the motion asking for the setting up of a special parliamentary committee to investigate the Ford Expedition vehicle gift that was given to the President, he had to satisfy himself that the case was not being investigated by another body.
He, therefore, directed the Clerk of Parliament to undertake a search to ascertain whether the matter was being investigated by another body, since information in the public domain was that some petitions had been submitted to CHRAJ.
“The search by the office of the Clerk confirmed that the matter is before them. The commission, in its response, indicated that it had received three separate complaints on the gift of a Ford Expedition vehicle and that it was investigating them,” he said.
After carefully studying the correspondence from the CHRAJ, he said: “I came to the conclusion that the matter at hand is not different in substance from the matter under investigation by the CHRAJ.”
I am of a firm conviction that constitutional bodies must respect one another in the performance of their duties in order to avoid role conflicts.