Tension In Parliament!

…As Minority Threatens To Impeach Speaker Oquaye Over Alleged Bias Attitude

There is a brewing cold war in parliament, as the minority side of the House has threatened to use all available legal means within its power to remove the Speaker, Professor Mike Aaron Oquaye, over what it describes as his unabated bias attitude toward them on the floor of the Chamber.

According to the minority, the Speaker has developed some anti-democratic attitude toward their side of the House and they would not sit down for him to abuse the rules and orders of the august House to the detriment of their concerns and views.

The minority’s threat follows a complaint by its leader, Haruna Iddrisu, that Prof. Oquaye had limited him to just one question, when the Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) appeared before parliament yesterday.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto was on the floor to answer a question filed by Mr. Eric Opoku, MP for Asunafi North, regarding the expenditure, participation and status of the government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme.

Mr. Iddrisu was on his feet to ask the minister a couple of questions, but the Speaker denied him the opportunity and ordered that he ask only one question.

The decision of the Speaker did not go down well with the minority and their leader and accused the Speaker of bias.

In responding to the Speaker’s ruling, Mr. Iddrisu said: “You know the essence of parliamentary questions is significant and integral to the exercise of oversight. Your refusal to allow me even as Minority Leader to proceed can only be an effort to cripple us.”

“We respect you as chair of this house; we have a responsibility as leadership to support you in maintaining order in this House,”Mr. Iddrisu vented his frustration.

But the Speaker also responded that, “I have consistently made it clear to both sides of the House, Majority and Minority – that no one will be allowed a double bite as I said on many occasions to both the Minority and the Majority. In all honesty, you all know that.

“Let me make it clear that this argument was most unnecessary and that in future what is going to happen is no leader shall have double bite at the chamber.”

Nonetheless, the Minority Chief Whip, Hon Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, at a press conference later, said the minority would not take kindly the Speaker’s attitude towards them and that, in all matters, the Speaker has always exhibited an act of bias which in their view would not help grow the country’s political dispensation.

In the view of the NDC MPs, the Speaker has, since the inception of the 7th Parliament of the 4th Republic, been bias against them, cataloguing a number of critical moments where he denied them to either voice out their displeasure or question ministers of state that appear before the legislature to answer to issues relating to their ministry.

“The day before yesterday (Tuesday), when we were doing the motion about the non-urgency of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill, 2017 and the Zongo Development Fund Bill, I stood up and, if you noticed, for a long time he refused to call me.

“What I wanted to say was that the process we were using was wrong. Because the constitution under Article 106 (13) says that it has to be done by a committee, but what they wanted us to do was to ask the House whether they agree or not.

“The constitution didn’t say that the House has to decide but rather the Committee that has to do that. So, I decided to draw his attention to that. When that failed, yesterday in the morning, I went to him and when he came I raised these things that Mr. Speaker we are not happy about the way things are going.

“We argued and ended it and I thought he has taken a cue. Mine was not the first.”

“If you remember it is the same problem when Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader stood up for almost fifteen minutes and the Speaker will not call him. We raised this objection with him in-camera in his holding room.

“How many times must we remind him, and I remember, in one instance, the Majority Leader, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu had to lead the Minority to talk to the Speaker about our displeasure over the way he is handling our issues.

“How many times do we have to do that? When we respect the chair and we come to you in your holding room and for the past six months we are just being frustrated.”

“We have used all avenues to address it but it is failing. So we are left with no other option than to vent our anger on the floor. So, you have to understand us. Just yesterday we drew his attention to it and in less than 24 hours, he is repeating it. What else does he want us to do? It is out of respect for the chair that we are not using all those avenues that we have.”

“But if we are pushed to the wall, we will be left with no option but to trigger all the avenues that are available to Members of Parliament – that if the Speaker is not being mindful, we will use any of them.

“If you look at our Standing Orders, there are many avenues and we will use it. We have the numbers to do whatever that we want to do,” Minority Chief Whip noted.

The minority also contended that, on several occasions the denied question from the minority side and to the extent that the minority had had to accompany the Majority Leader to go to him to express their concerns.

“Some time ago we agreed as Business Committee and admitted questions or statements, but questions will be removed from the Order Paper without our notice, statements have to get counter statements from the Majority before they are allowed; all these are a matter of concern to us and at the right time we know what to do. The avenues are there, we can initiate several processes, the laws allow us and we have the number to make one third to start that process,” he added.

To buttress their concerns, the minority said some  questions which are of national interest filed by some of them, including James Agalga and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa for the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministers to answer on the floor of parliament yesterday (Thursday) were conspicuously missing from the Order paper.

Mr. Agalga, in his question, wanted to know from the Minister for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to domesticate and to fully implement the Arms Trade Treaty, which was ratified by Parliament on 24th July 2015, while Okudzeto Ablakwa also wanted to know from the Minister for the Interior what measures his ministry was taking to combat insecurity and mob violence in the country.

However, the two questions originally scheduled on the Order paper for Thursday 27th July, were removed without notifications and without reason and explanation.

All these, the minority said, are evidence of their concerns and frustration in the hands of the Speaker and therefore want him to do the right thing or risk the whip from their end of the House.

.But the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, on the other hand, disagreed with the minority stance, stating, they( majority) suffered the same fate under Rt-Hon Doe Adjaho as then minority under the 6th parliament.

According to him, ” it is against the Rules and Standing Orders of Parliament for the minority leader to have done what he did to the Speaker by raising his hand and using abusive words, stating, ” that could attract contempt against him (Minority Leader).”

The Majority Leader indicated that, he would at all time fight for dignity and fairness for parliamentarians, especially the minority in order to build consensus to enrich our democracy, but he would not allow actions and inaction where the conduct of members sought to impugn the House.

While accusing the former Speaker, Doe Adjaho, of being the remote hand in the Minority’s attitude, he also advised them to be patient, for it is too early for them to engage in such action, including walking out from the Chamber on issues that could easily be resolved on the floor of the Chamber..

Meanwhile, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Afriyie Akoto told the House, the government spent a total amount of GHc157,023,174.00 on the campaign for ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme.

“Mr. Speaker, so far, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has spent one hundred and city seven million, twenty three thousand, one hundred and seventy four Ghana cedis on campaign for the major season in the Southern sector and the three Northern regions. Inputs distribution for the minor cropping season in the southern sector is ongoing. The Ministry is yet to receive the cost for the minor season cropping,” the Minister told parliament.

“Out of that, GHS24, 963,981.00 for Seeds and GHS132,059,193.00 for fertilizer for a total of 188,338 farmers from all the 10 regions who officially registered for the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme in the country.

He said, government is also planning to revamp warehouses in all districts throughout the country and possibly build new ones where there are none, adding that, that would help ensure food security for the country.

When asked further as to whether he was aware that some fertilizers meant for farmers in the PFJP had been smuggled to neighbouring countries, the minister denied knowledge of that, saying, “I am not privy to that.”



Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/ Felix Engsalige Nyaaba

The Republic News Online

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