Debates of 27 January 2018

MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER

PRAYERS

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Honourable Members, as the House has been duly informed of the absence from the country of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo today, Saturday, 27th to Wednesday, 31st January, 2018, and considering the unavoidable absence from the country of the Vice-President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the House has been convened this morning under Order 42 (3), to enable article 60 (11) and (12) to be triggered for the Speaker of Parliament to perform the functions of the President. Hon Members, before I invite Rt Hon Speaker and the Chief Justice to administer the Oath, I would request that we vary the order of Business and start with item numbered 4 -- Presentation of Papers. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?

Speaker
Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu

Mr Speaker, indeed I was going to make an application for the order of Business to be varied in order for us to accommodate item numbered 4 ahead of item numbered 3, considering, of course, the fact that the President is still within Ghana.

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Very well. Yes, Hon Minority Leader?

Speaker
Mr Haruna Iddrisu

Mr Speaker, there is no objection, particularly that you got it out of the sleeves of the Hon Majority Leader. Who are we to question you, when you say you would want to vary the order of Business? It is appropriate. I think we could proceed. I have consulted the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation, and he has indicated to me that some work has to be done on that. Thank you.

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Hon Members, Presentation of Papers by the Hon Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation.

PAPERS

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Hon Members, I shall now return to item numbered 3. Shall we invite Rt Hon Speaker and my lord, the Chief Justice into the Chamber for the oath to be administered? Hon Members shall pay attention, while the Chief Justice administers the Oath of Office to the Rt. Hon Speaker.

SWEARING -- IN OF THE ACTING

PRESIDENT

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Hon Members, I would now hear the Hon Leaders on any message of congra- tulations to the acting President.

Speaker
Minority Leader (Mr Haruna Iddrisu)

Mr Speaker, let me thank you for the opportunity. I believe I should also appreciate Hon Colleagues, that, though today is a Saturday, they are here to comply with the constitutional requirement. Mr Speaker, by the happenstance of the President travelling abroad, and the Vice-President being unavailable, Professor Michael Aaron Qquaye is assuming responsibility to perform the functions of the President of the Republic. Mr Speaker, just as you read to us, I would raise just one or two issues. One, I would want to ask whether the Rt Hon Speaker of Parliament should repeat the Oath of Allegiance? Mr Speaker, my position is, section 3 of the Oath Act of 1972 is against the repetition of oaths. However, just within a span of less than 10 or 14 days, the same Rt. Hon Speaker of Parliament, who swore an earlier Oath of Allegiance just some few days ago, is being made to swear another Oath of Allegiance. In my view, that is legally needless, and at best, unnecessary. Mr Speaker, I have had the opportunity already to say that probably, as I indicated, by the happenstance of the Supreme Court's ruling in the matter of Samuel Atta Mensah and the Attorney-General, we now are obliged to swear in the Rt. Hon Speaker at every other time that the President is not available. Mr Speaker, I shudder to say that Parliament must look at when a President is unable to perform the functions against when he is absent from the Republic. As to what the Constitution provides to what the Vice President can do when the President is absent, cannot be the same thing as when he is unable to perform his duties. Mr Speaker, we will invite the Executive to proceed to consider or probably, any Hon Member of Parliament, should come through a Private Member's Motion to amend the schedule of the Oath, where we have the words, “having been elected” -- Mr Speaker, you saw the Chief Justice, like many other Chief Justices, labour in substituting the words. She brilliantly said “in accordance with article 60 (11) and (12). Article 60 (11) and (12) makes reference to the schedule of the Constitution on the oath. Mr Speaker, the words there are, “I, … having been elected to the high office of President.” The Rt Hon Speaker has not been elected to the high office of President so, we should, as a Parliament, seek to delete or amend these words so that it would read:

Speaker
Minority Leader (Mr Haruna Iddrisu)

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Hon Minority Leader, can we prepare for debate on another day? Today, I just wanted you to congratulate the Rt Hon Speaker. I guess that these matters have been --

Speaker
Mr Iddrisu

I will take a cue from you. [Laughter.]

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

I pray that we prepare for a debate on another day. Let us just concentrate on congratulating the Rt Hon Speaker.

Speaker
Mr Iddrisu

In conclusion, Mr Speaker, I congratulate Prof. Oquaye, the Rt Hon Speaker of Parliament, on his assumption of duty, but we must elevate the constitutional review process and the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, must act timely on this matter. I thank you.

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Hon Majority Leader, I pray that you do not respond to the Hon Minority Leader. Just congratulate the Rt Hon Speaker, so we can do a debate on another day.

Speaker
Majority Leader (Mr Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu)

Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to acknowledge the events of the day and to also add my voice to that of the Hon Minority Leader in congratulating Hon Members for responding to the call to attend today's Sitting to perform this constitutional function. When the Rt Hon Speaker had the opportunity to perform the functions of the President less than a week ago, we did not hear anything untoward on his part, nothing happened in this country under his watch that was untoward. That in itself should merit our congratulations to the then acting President. Mr Speaker, today, as you said, the President is absent from Ghana and in the absence of the Vice-President, the onus has fallen on the Rt Hon Speaker again to perform the functions of the President until the President or the Vice President returns to assume that responsibility. We hope to God, that just as happened in the previous occasion, there would be serenity and tranquillity between now and the time the President returns. Mr Speaker, you have cautioned that we should not go into the remit of constitutionalism and I would resist the temptation, -- [Laughter] except to say that a careful reading of article 60 (8) would suggest to anybody that there is a conjunct between absence from Ghana and inability to perform the functions.

Speaker
Mr Speaker, article 60 (8) reads

and I quote with your permission; “Whenever the President is absent from Ghana or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions …”

Speaker
Mr Speaker, we should be careful. The wording is not

“Whenever the President is absent from Ghana or is for a reason unable to perform his functions …” It says, “… if for any other reasons”, which means that absence from Ghana is construed to be one of the inabilities to perform the functions. Mr Speaker, we will not go there. We will reserve this for a future debate. Clearly, that is the understanding of that construction. The language and tenor of that construction is clear. Mr Speaker, I will not further litigate that matter, but if anybody wants to debate it, at the appropriate time, we would be ready. Mr Speaker, I agree with the Hon Minority Leader on the point he raised about subjecting the Rt Hon Speaker to another Oath of Allegiance. I believe it is something that should be looked at. The other day it was raised and I agreed. It has been done again, but going forward, maybe, we should put our heads together to see which is most appropriate. Mr Speaker, I also agree as I agreed with him the other time, that this Parliament should resort to article 298 to offer the necessary amendment to the Second Schedule. Without that, nothing can be done. So Parliament should assume its rightful responsibility under article 298 to appropriately offer the relevant amendment to the second schedule in order for us or the Chief Justice, whenever duty calls, to be able to administer the appropriate oath to the Rt Hon Speaker. That is why it is sometimes spelt with ‘y' at the end. In fact, the ‘e' at the end is accented. There is an accent aigu on the ‘e' at the end. -- [Hear! Hear!] So, the word is “e-p-i-t-o-m-é” and not “e-p-i-t-o- m-e”. Mr Speaker, with that, may I move that this House takes an adjournment until Tuesday, 30th January, 2018 at 10.00 o'clock in the forenoon?

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Hon Members, before I invite the Hon Minority Leader to second the Motion for adjournment, I wish on behalf of all of us, to congratulate Mr Speaker, for being sworn-in as the Acting President twice in a week. He must be very lucky. And I want to thank all of you for responding in your numbers to the invitation to Sit on a Saturday. I thank you all. Hon Minority Leader, now, you may second the Motion for adjournment.

Speaker
Mr Iddrisu

Mr Speaker, mine is a very simple one, to second the Motion for us to adjourn. I do not intend to respond to the pronunciation issues raised by the Hon Majority Leader. But he has a phone and he could make it loud and google how that word is pronounced and play it to his hearing -- [laughter] -- either it is done ‘epitomé' or ‘epitome'.

Speaker
Mr First Deputy Speaker

Hon Members, on the note of the prophecy of doom from -- [Laughter] -- I do not know where the eminence of the prophecy is coming from, but I want to believe that he said that in jest. Question put and Motion agreed to.

ADJOURMENT