The Members of Parliament (MP) on the side of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) are still struggling to convince Ghanaians on their decision to walkout of Parliament during the passage of the Electronic Transaction Levy (E-Levy) last week, instead of staying to insist on a ballot to determine the popularity of the levy amongst the MPs.
The bill was hurriedly passed by a one-sided NPP MP with a voice vote and the NDC MPs, have since been at pains seeking to convince Ghanaians, especially their supporters on their decision to resort to the law court; the Supreme Court, which they have variously described as biased based on a string of unanimous decisions in favour of the Akufo-Addo government.
Dominic Ayine, Kweku George Ricketts-Hagan, Bernard Ahiafor, have all been on various media platforms speaking on the matter, including attempts to go to court, but many notable voices in the country, including Kwesi Pratt of the Insight newspaper, hold the view that the Minority’s action is purely a “lack of principle”.
On Saturday, the MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who is one of the three MPs who have dragged the government to court over the passage of the bill, lamented over the dilemma facing NDC MPs crying that no matter what the MPs do, they still faces criticisms.
In a post shared on his official Facebook page on Saturday, April 2, 2022 he wrote; “The NDC MP’s Cross 1) You stay and fight — they describe you as dishonourable; 2) You keep calm and lose a vote — they question your commitment and ability to mobilize; 3) You stage a strategic walk out to deny the majority group a quorum and head to the Supreme Court to keep the E-Levy fight alive — they question your integrity and your sense of judgement.
“It seems the NDC MP never wins, and yet comparably, only a few critics turn similar heat on the real masterminds of these inimical policies – the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia/NPP obstinate regime.
“Maybe, just maybe, we should be proud that we are held to a much higher standard and be minded to keep doing our best with a clean conscience for God and Country.
Bolgatanga East MP, Dr Dominic Ayine, has meanwhile disclosed that the decision by the minority to walk out of parliament during the passage of the E-Levey Bill was a suggestion of MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga.
According to Dr Ayine, even though he endorsed the suggestion of the Bawku Central MP (Member of Parliament), his position was that Assin North MP James Gyakye Quayson, who has been barred from holding himself as an MP, be allowed by the leadership of the minority caucus to take part in the vote on the E-Levy Bill.
Dr Ayine, who said this in a JoyNews interview on March 30, 2022, indicated that he got cold feet on his position because some party folks said Gyakye Quayson’s vote could later be struck out in court, or he could be imprisoned for contempt of court.
“As far as yesterday was concerned, my position was different; my position was that we should bring in the Assin North MP in the voting … for me, the legal processes so far did not serve as a bar to the Member of Parliament.
“But I also realised that the NPP could do one thing which I anticipated, which is to object to his participating, go to court and say that his vote is illegal, reference that vote and take it, which meant that we would be short by one member but of course, in terms of the political optics I was willing and pushing for that angle.
“… until another politico-legal strategy was brought into play by the Hon. Mahama Ayariga and that was a tactical move that we should leave the chamber and deprive the NPP of the numbers needed for quorum, and I endorsed that position because it reflected the true position of the supreme court decision in Justice Abdullai and Attorney general case,” he said.
The minority walked out just before the approval of the policy and subsequently sued the Attorney General over the development. The strategy of the minority caucus appears not to have worked because the bill was passed with only the majority caucus present in parliament.
The minority caucus, led by three MPs, including Mahama Ayariga, Tamale Central MP Haruna Iddrisu and North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has filed a suit at the Supreme Court, asking the court to declare the approval of the e-levy null and void because there was no quorum for the decision to be taken.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, two days after the Parliamentary approval assented to the E-Levy Bill, which has made it a law, despite the pending ruling of the Supreme Court on the case filed by the minority caucus.
The Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, had described the approval as illegal and unconstitutional because in their view, the Majority did not have the right numbers to pass it.
“This is a charade,” he said at a press conference in Parliament, adding that “there is no E-levy.”
“The majority of less than 137 conducting businesses only proceeded on illegal and unconstitutional business. Parliament did not have the numbers to take any decision that should binding Parliament and Ghanaians,” he added.
The MP for Cape Coast South, Kweku George Ricketts-Hagan, has also said that the decision by the Minority in Parliament to stage a walkout during the approval of the e-levy was a move to stop the policy from being endorsed by the House.
Speaking on the Key Points on TV3 on Saturday April 2 with host Dzifa Bampoh, he said “My personal view is that we should have stayed and voted, but leadership got information we didn’t have and that information showed that the best option was to walk out and use the Supreme Court ruling. We deployed all strategies and at the eleventh hour the strategy was to walkout before the Speaker put the question.”
He added that the general consensus is people didn’t want the e-levy.
“We wanted to see it through voting, it became a tactical game and we were looking at the numbers, so we were sort of monitoring each other, who is not in and who is being carried in ambulance and the [Majority] were also doing that, to look at how they can get one of us to get out. The very day the voting was to take place was the day they invited one of our MPs to court. They checked our numbers and we checked theirs and so it was a tactical game.
“We asked what was best. If at this stage you realize that they have the numbers, what is the best way out? If we walk out and use the ruling of the court, will it help? The decision by our leadership was that our best option was to walk out.”
The Cape Coast MP, said his personal view was that the NDC MPs should have stayed in Parliament to vote against the e-levy when it was being considered.
However, he said, the leadership of his side thought otherwise due to information on a move by the Majority, they had but was not privy to the rest hence, the decision to walkout.
“My personal view is that we should have stayed and voted but leadership got information we didn’t have and that information showed that the best option was to walk out and use the Supreme Court ruling.”
He added “We deployed all strategies and at the eleventh hour, the strategy was to walkout before the Speaker put out the question.”
Bernard Ahiafor, the MP for Akatsi South, talked about how he was nearly tricked by Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to miss the debate on the E-levy.
He said he had been lied to by the NPP that they were to meet in France, however, minutes into connecting to France from Amsterdam, he realized the trick, and rushed back to Ghana on time for the debate.
Meanwhile, the Editor-in-Chief of Insight newspaper, Kwesi Pratt, has fired salvoes at the Minority for filing a lawsuit at the Supreme Court against the passage of the E-Levy Bill.
Speaking on Peace FM’s ‘Kokrokoo’, the seasoned Journalist wondered why the Minority has resorted to the Supreme Court when they once bastardized the same court when it ruled thata “Deputy Speaker is entitled to be counted as a member of Parliament for quorum” and can”vote and take part in the decision of parliament.”
“I thought, with those things they said, they wouldn’t send anything to the Supreme Court because the things they said showed a complete lack of confidence in the Supreme Court. So, what has happened that, all of sudden, the Minority is running to the Supreme Court?, he questioned.
He further questioned “if the Supreme Court is a supporter of the E-levy, then what is the outcome you are expecting?”To Kwesi Pratt, the Minority’s action is purely a “lack of principle”.