National Democratic Congress [NDC], Member of Parliament for Kumbugu, Ras Mubarak, has accused the Chief Justice of altering some of the words in the oath administered to the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Michael Oquaye, who was sworn into office on Sunday as the acting President, in the absence of the President and his Vice.
According to him, the framers of the constitution should have made provisions for the oath to be recited by the acting President when the need arises.
“They should have made provision in the case of someone who is acting, because what the Chief Justice sort to do was to alter the oath to fit the exigencies of the situations, I mean he has not been elected, the oath says that whoever is being sworn in will say, ‘having be elected to the high office of President’, we have a situation where the Speaker, who is going be acting was not elected to the high office of president, so in this case that has that has to be altered,” he said.
He also questioned the constitutionality of the swearing at Parliament, and wondered if the Chief Justice has the power to alter the constitution in the sense to meet the demand of the situation at hand.
“Now, here is the case she has read something that cannot be found in the constitution, in such a situation what is the interpretation, does she have the legal backing, does she have the constitutional mandate, to alter elements of the constitution?” he asked.
He also said the absence of the President does not incapacitate him from going about his function as the President of the country.
“We live the 21st century and I think the President can issue an instruction to any of his ministers to the Chief of Staff, from wherever he is, and the fact that he is not physically present in the country will not invalidate the things that he may have given instructions for,” he said.
He concluded that the alteration of oath is something they, the Minority, wants the general public to think about and in due time, their line of action with regards to that, will be made known.
Speaker needs only Oath of Secrecy to act as President – Majority Leader
Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has suggested that future Speakers of Parliament who may have to act as President be allowed to take only the Oath of Secrecy.
At the moment, Speakers of Parliament who serve as acting President in the absence of both the President and the Vice, are to take only the Oath of Office.
But speaking on the floor of Parliament on Sunday after Professor Michael Oquaye was sworn in as acting President, Mr. Mensah-Bonsu said the country could take a second look at the arrangement.
He argued further that the Speaker of Parliament is already administered the Oath of Allegiance when sworn in as Speaker of Parliament.
“The Speaker did not take Oath of Secrecy. For the Oath of Allegiance, the Speaker has already taken it, so I would want to plead that going forward, whenever he has to be sworn in, he does not need to take the Oath of Allegiance because he has already done so as a Speaker. What he didn’t do was the Oath of Secrecy that is done by the President.”
“So I would think that, going forward, when the Speaker has to be sworn in as a President, the Oath of Secrecy would have to be admitted. It has never been done, but I guess we can improve our own procedures,” the Majority Leader stated.
Controversy over swearing-in
The law concerning the swearing-in was breached by a former Speaker of Parliament, Doe Adjaho in 2014, when he refused to take the oath of office as acting President at a point.
Both President Mahama and his Vice Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, had traveled outside the country at the time.
This compelled the Managing Director of Citi FM, Samuel Atta-Mensah, and a United States-based Ghanaian lawyer, Prof. Kwaku Asare, to file a suit at the Supreme Court, to among other things, seek an interpretation of Article 60 (12) of the 1992 Constitution, which requires that the Speaker takes the oath of office each time he is to act as President.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared that the Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Edward Doe Adjaho, violated Article 60 (11)-(12) of the 1992 Constitution when he declined to be sworn in to act as President.
The nine-member panel, presided over by Justice Sophia Akuffo, also averred that the “Speaker of Parliament shall always, before assuming the functions of the Office of President when the President and the Vice-President are unable to perform their functions, take and subscribe to the oath set out in relation to the Office of President”.
Some have however insisted that the law is obsolete, considering that a President on an international assignment remains a President, and so he or she doesn’t need anyone to act in his absence.